Each month a different blog selects a topic and hosts a conversation of bloggers called The Sessions. The topic for The Session #46, hosted by Mike Lynch of Burgers and Brews, is to discuss An Unexpected Discovery, a beer experience that took you by surprise. I was originally not going to participate in this topic because I couldn’t think of a good story but lo and behold a few days ago I discovered Amsterdam Cafe in San Francisco less than 10 minutes, walking, from where I live.
My discovery of Amsterdam Cafe came in two stages.
Part 1. The day after Thanksgiving a bunch of friends were visiting from out of town and we were out drinking in San Francisco. Towards the end of the night we ended up at Edinburgh Castle, a pub on Geary and Polk, which was a location used in So I Married an Axe Murderer. It was a decent enough pub with the standard 2-3 craft beers you see everywhere in SF with the addition of Moylan’s Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale. When we left Edinbugh Castle, I noticed a place directly across the street with four beer signs in the window and one of them was Lost Coast’s Great White. I thought to myself or I told somebody, “I wonder what kind of beer selection they have in there” but I neglected to make note of the name of the place to check out later. At that moment, we should have just crossed the street and checked it out but instead we continued on to someplace else.
Part 2. Four days later, or last Tuesday, a friend of mine, Tim, called and left a voicemail saying that he was with a mutual friend, Jan, at Triple Rock in Berkeley and was wondering if I would like to join them. Of course I would have liked to join them, especially since I haven’t been there yet, but it was the middle of the afternoon and I was in meetings. So I called back and we coordinated to meet up at my place when they returned to the city (San Francisco). When Tim and Jan arrived, we tried to figure out where to go grab a good craft beer nearby and concluded that Polk St. just doesn’t have any good craft beer bars like Church Key, Toronado, Monk’s Kettle, and so on. This is when Jan suggested a place that she had been to about a year ago but her recollection on the selection and availability of craft beer wasn’t clear. She thought they might have some decent stuff and that it was called Amsterdam Cafe located directly across from Edinburgh Castle. Wait a minute! I was just wondering about that place 4 days ago. And so we headed down from Nob Hill to the Tenderloin to check out Amsterdam Cafe.
The second we walked in the door, I knew this was an unexpected discovery. There were much more than a few good beers on tap. They had 14 craft beers on tap plus Guinness and, like bookends for the taps, were two large refrigerators packed with bottles of craft beer. When I asked about the number of different bottles, the estimate was over 250. Not only do they have the bottles in the fridge but also bottles under the bar and some in the basement and all of the bottles are stored properly, cold.
The menu is quite extensive but they have seasonal beers and others that are not listed. Your best bet is to scan the menu, inspect the fridges, and ask about special releases. I noticed a bottle of Stone Double Bastard (not on the menu) so I asked if they had Stone Lukcy Basartd and they did! Not only did I find a new neighborhood (close enough) beer bar but also I was able to get the beer that I was craving at that very moment, one of my new favorites made by Stone Brewing. That’s two unexpected discoveries in one night.
All of this occurred while not recalling what The Session topic was for the upcoming Friday; the Friday immediately following my first visit to Amsterdam Cafe. Over the weekend, after The Sessions Friday, I was getting ready to write an announcement post for The Session #47, which I will be hosting on Jan. 7, 2011, and I visited the blog hosting The Session #46, Burgers and Brews. This was when I remembered the topic and that my recent experience would be perfect for this Session. I contacted Mike to see if it was too late to get my entry included in the Wrapup and he said it was not too late, but I had to explain why I was late. The next Monday, I went back to Amsterdam Cafe to take some photos, try some of their food, and take some photos.
There’s my story. As a result of my unexpected discovery I’ve found my new favorite neighborhood spot to grab a craft beer: Amsterdam Cafe.
Now, if your curious about this somewhat new San Francisco beer bar, then read on. Amsterdam Cafe has been around for over a year and is located at 937 Geary between Larkin and Polk in the Tenderloin neighborhood. The neighborhood itself isn’t the greatest but it is actually located near other bars and nightlife, such at Edinburgh Castle, R-Bar, Tommy’s Joint, and so on. The inside of the bar is roughly equivalent to other bars in the area; not quite a dive but definitely not a posh lounge. It’s comfortable, decorated, there’s art for sale, and there is a nice eclectic mix of familiar and unfamiliar music. I enjoyed hanging out there and talking with friends. It wasn’t too loud but I have not been there on a weekend so I don’t know if it gets packed or not.
As mentioned before, they have 15 taps and roughly half of those are consistently the same. The others change somewhat regularly. They also have on the order of 200 to 250 different bottles available. The prices for beer are reasonable and not outrageous. For instance, it’s probably 30-40% cheaper than Monk’s Kettle.
They do serve food but the first night I was there the bartender said that food is only available before 2:30pm. I tried the food and it is about what you would expect from convenience food, made with a deep fryer, in a tiny kitchen, and prepared by a bartender. I had the cordon bleu sandwich and it was just okay. They do however allow you to bring in your own food from outside and there are several nearby restaurants, including the Little Saigon area.
They also have artisan coffee (currently from Coffee Magic), free WiFi (for you AT&T customers like me who have trouble using 3G almost anywhere in SF), open patio in the front, a flat screen TV, and hookah for $10.
I hope my unexpected discovery leads you to check out this great neighborhood beer bar. If you live in SF and enjoy craft beer in a comfortable environment, you must check this place out. If you don’t live in SF, put this place on your list to visit or come out for SF Beer Week.
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