SUPEREGO I had absolutely no idea that there was a hysterical '90s gay dance hits mashup scene!
This was just one of the many, many worlds that opened up for me as Hunky Beau and I girded our burgeoning loins and embarked one recent Saturday on a whirlwind Castro bar crawl. Despite the nutso economics of late, a large new crop of attractively unpretentious San Francisco nightspots has bloomed, from the odd-but-pleasant hunter-themed Bloodhound in SoMa (1145 Folsom, www.bloodhoundsf.com ) and multi-chandeliered DJ paradise Triple Crown in Mid-Market (1760 Market, www.triplecrownsf.com ) to Potrero Hill's underground-minded Project One Gallery (251 Rhode Island, www.p1sf.com ), the Mission's jazz-inflected supperclub Coda (1710 Mission, www.codasf.com ), and hurray? our first "dessert lounge" CandyBar in the Western Addition (1335 Fulton, www.candybarsf.com ). Even a few mainstays have had fresh alt-cred life breathed into them, like absinthe-happy Buckshot Tavern (3848 Geary, SF. www.buckshot-sf.com ), classy dive the Hearth (4701 Geary), and reinvigorated Madrone Lounge (500 Divisadero, www.madronelounge.com ).
It's a regular autumn harvest of buzz-heavy embarrassment opportunities a barvest, if you will. But it's the Castro that's seen the most openings in the past few months, so that seemed the logical destination for a night of guzzling look-see.
For the sake of my flawless skin, I try to stay positive. Complaining about the Castro is like crapping on a pigeon: you feel a little vindication, but then you realize, "Wow, I just crapped on a pigeon." So you have to just take our increasingly generic, Kylie-nauseating gay Mecca on its own terms, acknowledging that among the upscale influx there's at least some crazy drag and heartfelt effort at the Lookout (3600 16th St., www.lookoutsf.com ), a very nice overdue remodel of the hip-pop Café (2369 Market, www.cafesf.com ), with a lot fewer tiny backpacks in line to get in, even a cozy laidback alcoholic outpost called Last Call (3988 18th St., www.thelastcallbar.com ), which slid right into the old Men's Room space. And Q Bar (456 Castro, www.qbarsf.com ) hosts some some damn cute weekly parties.
That hoo-hoo gay mashup scene I mentioned think Armand Van Helden's rejigger of "Professional Widow" by Tori Amos overlaid with Deee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart" and Stardust's "Music Sounds Better with You" was rocking a dance floor of five at the distractingly bright Toad Hall (4146 18th St., www.toadhallbar.com ) but the nifty back patio was packed, mostly with amply proportioned women who'd probably wandered over from the Castro Theater's Erotic Film Festival. I suppose apoplectic owner Les Natali is trying to somehow channel the spirit of the original clone-era Toad Hall bar through a blaze of big-screens and several hot pink waterfalls?
The cover at Trigger (2348 Market, www.clubtrigger.com ) was $8.
By far the best new arrival to the cologne zone is Blackbird (2124 Market, www.blackbirdbar.com ), a relaxed, narrow, and hiply appointed joint around the corner from the former Transfer, now known creatively as Bar on Church (198 Church, www.thebarsf.com ). Blackbird has been in the news a lot lately due to the sad death of droll co-owner Doug Murphy from swine flu, eclipsing the happier news that the bar has quickly become one of the city's more celebrated hotspots. Blackbird's other co-owner, Shawn Vergara, knows that a few rough edges, a risk-taking cocktail menu try the sparkling, tequila-based "grape drink" and a freak-welcoming vibe stick in the mind more than wannabe polish.
As for the rest of the Castro: Is trying to do something different too much to ask? Did I just crap on a pigeon?