It was a rainy weeknight, I had just gotten off of work, and I was “jonesing” to go someplace a bit different to imbibe in a tasty beverage. I had recently heard of a “secret garage bar” in NoPa which sounded perfect for the occasion. As you will soon discover, I am a stickler for all things considered “secret” and “underground,” which is probably why I have such a strong affinity for the Roaring 20’s. There’s just something about an era that manifested Speakeasy’s, the dawning of women’s lib, and the bohemian lifestyle that gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. But I’m getting off topic…
Upon our arrival, my compadre and I were greeted by this radiant vision, who I later learned was the portrait of a lovely (and anonymous) woman whom one of the owners met in Mexico. Looking up at the Señorita’s luminous and somewhat sassy smile, I instantly had a good feeling about the place.
The inside of the bar caught me a little off guard, because it was quite literally a refurbished garage. However, it was also a very aesthetically unique garage, with floor to ceiling murals, low-key picnic-style card tables, and a Dia de los Muertos flare that made you want to dance the Jarabe Tapatío on your way in.
We wandered up to the bar to check out the drink menu, and found a large selection of Mezcal-inspired cocktails and classic artisanal favorites. I am a big proponent of ordering food and drink items that are the specialty of the place from which you’re ordering them. For example, it would be quite daft to order a burrito in a sushi restaurant… although, that being said, an exact replica of that food mash-up has been done quite successfully in SF.
I don’t know if it was the dreary weather, the dark interior of the bar, or my adventurous mood, but instead of going with a Mezcal cocktail, (like I just suggested), I decided on a brighter, fruitier gin-based drink called the Clover Club. (Quick note to readers: Do as I say, not as I do.) The menu’s description of fresh raspberries, lavender syrup, and shaken egg whites had me quite curious and longing to try it.
The man behind the bar was a very friendly, if not slightly bored fellow, so while my friend stepped outside to take a call, the jovial chap jumped at the chance to show me the bar’s plentiful supply of dominoes, cards, and communal bowl of chili-lime flavored popcorn. I followed suit and helped myself to a set of dominoes and a small helping of popcorn before parking myself at one of the tables.
My friend quickly rejoined me at the table as we were served our cocktails, which were both boozy and delicious. As we were sitting at the table trying to relearn how to play dominoes through the assistance of our iPhones and noshing on popcorn, I had an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia rush over me. I was suddenly whisked back to my early days of college, where we had house parties with kegs in the garage and an unhealthy assortment of munchies in the kitchen. The only thing that snapped me back to reality was the gentle tapping of the rain on the garage door’s windows outside, and my friend’s victorious cry of “Dominoes!”
Do you have any tips or recommendations from your own visit to El Garage Urbano or its adjoining cantina-style Mexican restaurant, La Urbana? I’d love to hear your opinion!