The bloody triangle

A terrifying tour of three make-your-own Bloody Mary bars.

By Camper English

SAN FRANCISCO IS a city with strange mystical energy. Usually this bubbles to the surface in the form of drum circles and magically delicious burritos, but for every positive center of energy there must be a balancing negative. One such zone of evil near the geographical center of San Francisco lies dormant most of the week, erupting with a vengeance only on that most sacred of days: a day when the Judeo-Christian god rested, and the rest of us were told by three different sets of bartenders to make our own damn Bloody Mary. Join me on Sunday, then, for a tour of the Bloody Triangle – if you dare!

We begin at 16th Street and Guerrero, at the bar Elixir. Behold its suspicious location a mere block from Mission Dolores! Feel its devilish charm! See the drink specials board! Legend has it this corner is the second-oldest saloon site in San Francisco, having witnessed the horror of earthquakes and fires and dot-coms. Consider that while you join me for a drink inside – if you dare!

On Sundays, Elixir opens at the bright hour of 10 a.m. during NFL season, noon the rest of the year. At such times, the bar is filled with slightly sleepy football fans and also a few of their dogs. The $6 make-your-own Bloody Mary comes as a pint glass partially filled with vodka. The rest is up to you, with the help of a condiment bar that holds three kinds of juice (including Clamato!), approximately 17 hot sauces, and 17 types of peppers, powders, and spices. The vegetable selection here mirrors that at the other Bloody Mary bars we'll visit today, including pickled green beans, olives, pepperoncini, cocktail onions, lemons, limes, celery, and horseradish. Coincidence, or convergence?

Now walk with me down 16th to Mission Street, there turning left toward Duboce. Sitting almost beneath the highway overpass like a troll beneath a fairy-tale bridge is the restaurant-bar-club Levende, a former garage that somehow manages to be swanky while surrounded by sausage factories. Sometimes, if you listen closely, you can almost hear the pigs on the menu there cry out, "How about a delicious make-your-own breakfast cocktail with which to wash me down?" Have one – if you dare!

Levende on Sundays is the hipster breakfast spot you can bring your parents to. At the DJ-enhanced Boogie Brunch (10 a.m.-4 p.m.), the make-your-own Bloody Mary comes with the $16 breakfast special, or $7 separately. Either way, that buys you a pint glass filled with plain or house-infused pepperoncini vodka to bring to the bar, where a large selection of juice – six kinds (including Clamato!) – awaits. The one made with beef broth is known as an ancient voodoo cure for nonvegetarian hangovers.

After finishing your cocktail, let us flee this troll's nest and walk up 14th Street to Market. On the corner, a semi-triangular (triangles: inherently evil?) restaurant called Home looks suspiciously like the bow of a ghost ship half submerged in an asphalt ocean. Many people say this building is cursed, as several other restaurants built on the spot have gone under.

Home is popular with gays and gay-adjacent brunchers of all ages. The make-your-own Bloody Mary costs a mere three bucks here, but comes in a smaller Collins glass. So you'll have to have two drinks here – if you dare! They skimp on the juice selection (read: no Clamato!) but serve about 18 different hot sauces to make up for it. Brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

After your visit to the outer rim of the Bloody Triangle, you're probably a little bit tipsy and oriented toward evil. That is why I've ended the tour at Home – to remind you to go there. I recommend you never come back to this damned part of town, but I know you will not heed my warnings. No one ever does. The Bloody Triangle calls out to each of us like a naked mermaid to a drunken sailor, inviting us to join her each Sunday, drowning our hangovers in her murky red depths.

The triangle

Elixir 3200 16th St., SF. (415) 552-1633, www.elixirsf.com.

Levende 1710 Mission, SF. (415) 864-5585, www.levendesf.com.

Home 2100 Market, SF. (415) 503-0333, www.home-sf.com.