Illustration by Molly Oleson

Is there a bar that all your friends really like but you just can’t stand? And you cringe inside every time they say “let’s go there!” and suddenly you’re listing pros and cons in your head about whether spending an hour with these people is really worth it? On the one hand you might hook up, on the other hand you might have to sit there drinking craft beer?

Do you have a bar like that? Is it Southern Pacific?

Because if it’s Southern Pacific, I would like to get a drink with you at any bar in the Mission besides Southern Pacific.

This will only come up for you if the bar is so fucking convenient to where you live, or work, or people you like to see. If a bar isn’t that convenient, you can almost always steer people away from it. But if a bar you hate is both popular and convenient, it will haunt you like Banquo’s ghost.

“You know what?” Betsy asked me as we walked over to Southern Pacific, because, God damn it, it was right fucking there so why wouldn’t we go to a bar that everyone likes? “I should be more like Trump.”

I admit, I had not seen that coming.

“Well,” she said, “I mean, he spends all day screwing everything up, then wakes up the next morning and can just brag to everyone about the incredible things he did yesterday. I need some of that.”

Betsy, a former coworker of mine, just got back from presenting at a conference, and thinks she screwed it up. “My stuff was the worst stuff,” she explained.

Southern Pacific wasn’t crowded, but it was still noisy and … okay … honestly, I don’t know why I hate this bar so much. They make their own beer, and it’s good beer. Their food isn’t something I’d rave about, but it’s a step above conventional pub fare. Because it’s a converted warehouse, it’s spacious; with an outdoor patio, a massive main area, and an upper deck, it has an amount of space that is positively luxurious for San Francisco. So what’s my problem?

We scooted around a small tent encampment to get to the door, went inside, and placed our orders. I got the porter, a nice flavorful and dark beer which, for some reason, I prefer over their lighter, Belgian-style beers (this is unlike me). Betsy ordered the Kolsch, but they were out, so she went with a California Blonde instead, and a basket of sage fries. The fries are, you know, fine. They’re fine. I don’t understand why my friends keep eating them.

The future Southern Pacific Brewing Company on 620 Treat Street, pictured here in 2011.

[dropcap]“I[/dropcap] love fries,” Betsy said as we walked to the outside patio, where it was possible to actually hear a conversation.

I think … I guess? … that my issue with Southern Pacific is that for a bar with so many advantages, it is just so goddamn uninteresting. Everything is decent, but it seems to show no discernible vision beyond just packing people in. No matter what I do there (and I recommend the lamb wrap), I feel like I’m settling. Fuck convenient, there’s always someplace I’d rather be.

After a certain point you have to acknowledge that maybe this is your issue, and nobody else’s. But is the issue that other people like convenience too much, or that I just don’t know how to recognize a good thing over and over again?

“I was told I should smile less,” Betsy told me

I rolled my eyes. “Oh, screw that.”

She gave me a skeptical look. “You hate it when I smile.”

“I object to your chronic cheerfulness, yes.”

“You once compared working with me to being hit over the head by a basket of kittens,” she reminded me.

“And I stand by that,” I agreed. “But that doesn’t mean you should take the advice of cynical misanthropes to heart. I hate your never-ending cheerfulness, but it makes you happy, so do it! Fuck everybody else!”

Her lips curled. “Misanthrope,” she muttered, shaking her head. “You’re not a misanthrope. I’ve got a ton of friends who are more misanthropic than you.”

“You,” she continued, eating a fry pointedly, “do not know me at all. You keep thinking you do, because you keep expecting it to be a quick process.”

“That’s not … huh, no, actually, you’ve got me.”

She squinted at me. “Do I?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

She picked up another fry. “That’s disappointing. I expected you to have some great comeback.”

I shook my head as a server came out to collect our glasses and basket. I’ll say this for Southern Pacific: They hustle. “No, I’m not going to argue. The idea that people don’t really know each other at all is kind of a big theme in my life right now.”

“Oh,” she said. And thought about it. “I should go home. I have to take care of my cat. Do you want a ride?”

“Sure, thanks.”

“No problem.” We got up to leave. “I appreciate you saying it was okay for me to smile. That was surprising.”

“I’ve told you: I have no care for your cheerfulness, but I’m invested in your happiness.”

“You said that?”

“Yeah. I told you that after that time when I shouted at you and hurt your feelings.”

“Huh. I didn’t notice.”


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  1. Yep the no kids thing killed it for me too. Also the acoustics are terrible so you can’t hear anyone you are talking with and end up going hoarse.

  2. We really dug Southern Pacific until they decided kids were a scourge (or whatever the rationale). I totally get not wanting whiney, messy kids around but feck, parents love/need beer too. Totally turned off by the place now; want to love it but can’t. Happy to take our beer-loving bellies (and kid) to Bare Bottle where they’re just so damn nice and kid-accommodating.

  3. That was regular spot for me when they let you bring kids. Then they said no to kids on weekends or weekdays, which sucked but hey, it’s their business. But then when I stopped by on a random Tuesday afternoon with my kid, they told me the that now they didn’t allow kids at all. And with that there really wasn’t anything to bring me back.

    The author is right. The place is fine, but doesn’t have a hook. With so many great options in the neighborhood, why settle with just fine?

  4. Southern Pacific is so totally Joe College. Belongs at Chico State. One of the New Gentry cliches that are destroying the Mission community. And the beer is mediocre.

  5. I’m wondering who wrote this column…? It reads like yet another of Benjamin’s “I’m drinking at a bar” columns, but the byline is Joe’s. (I think the byline is wrong.)