Hayes Valley's tiki-tinged hidden gem—though not for long—Smuggler's Cove barely beat wildly popular transplant-cum-cyclist "dive" Zeitgeist as San Francisco's Best Bar. Smuggler's Cove nabbed 53.13% of the vote with Zeitgeist coming in behind at 46.87%. Which is to say, the "high end" bar wins! But why is Smuggler's Cove so popular, you whine? Well, for starters, it's tucked away. Booze aficionados like the illusion of anonymity while imbibing. Also, the venue is never that crowded inside since they maintain a healthy line outside so that folks aren't crammed into the small space.
"The main reason for running a line on busy nights is that our rated occupancy is for just 49 people. While we know that lots of San Francisco bars pack in people, we’ve been in those bars and they are often uncomfortably crowded. Our goal is that once you make your way inside, you will have room to breathe, talk to and be able to hear your friends, and enjoy your cocktails. The doorman is also there for your security, as well as ours, and to help us maintain quiet outside because we want to be a good neighbor.
We also believe in a fair line. That means first come, first served. Period. If you show up an hour after your date or friends do, you will not be allowed in before the other people in line who have been waiting. We do head counts and let as many people in as we can, but once we are at capacity, someone must leave for someone else to go in. If you want to bring a group to Smuggler’s Cove, we suggest you keep your group fairly small, get to the bar early, and that you all show up at roughly the same time. Explain to folks joining you that if they come late, they might have to wait in line."
And, yes, the drinks do take a bit longer to make than at your average low-rent bar. But this can be a good thing.
In many cases the historic and contemporary rum cocktails we serve, especially exotic (tropical) recipes, are complicated. These drinks have as many as 8-11 ingredients that must be finely balanced, which means measuring each ingredient (not just turning 8 bottles upside down and hoping for the best!).
However, don't worry if you can't stomach rum (we can't!). They've got almost everything and anything under the sky that your damaged liver craves.
Smuggler's Cover opens at 5 p.m. every day. You can find them at 650 Gough Street (at McAllister) in San Francisco. See you there!