Classic Bar: Lounge at Big Four
Drinks with a side of Old San Francisco
Few San Franciscans make it to the top of Nob Hill, especially for drinks alone.
Which may be why we spotted only a few aging locals, plus Huntington Hotel guests, in the Lounge at Big Four, even though Big Four is in contention for the honor of being the city's handsomest drinking spot.
Suffused with a muted, ruddy glow, the room is framed in wood molding whose intricacy crescendos around the bar. Is there a piano player? Oh, yes, and one good enough to make "Send in the Clowns" sound as if it were originally written as an aria.
Fair warning: With the exception, perhaps, of a sharply etched Vesper, the house cocktails ($15) wouldn't meet the exacting standards of Bourbon & Branch-trained 'tenders. Ordering a Gin & Tonic ($13), or a Manhattan made with your favorite rye, would be more appropriate.
The bar offers a few near-extinct amenities that more than compensate. Happy-hour drinkers can pluck toothpick-garnished sandwich squares from an early-evening display, and bowls of salted almonds come to every table.
This is a setting designed for illicit affairs or life-changing conversations. Don't leave it solely to the tourists.
Rather, bring them with you, promising them a spot that only insiders know about.
Our San Francisco editor, Jonathan Kauffman, drank at Big Four unannounced on 7/9. The table service was pleasant, and generous with the free almonds. We spent $60 on drinks for four, not including tip. Check out Tasting Table's restaurant recommendation policy.