The Cavalier, 10.11.2016

Apparently, The Cavalier is another restaurant that feels that the listing of any non-alcoholic options on their dinner menu is a waste of space.

So, I won’t waste much space on them.

(To be fair, they do list “Fresh Juices and Refreshers” on their Lunch, Brunch, and Breakfast menus. Not sure why they fall out of consideration for the dinner menu.)

Tosca Cafe, 09.23.2016


Apparently, Tosca Cafe agrees with Bruce Dern’s alcoholic Dad character in the movie “Nebraska” that, “Beer Ain’t Drinkin'”. The lowest ABV beverage on their drink menu is a 7oz pony bottle of Miller High Life clocking in at 4.2%. Now, admittedly, when I was drinking, I had a tendency to call Miller High Life, “Vaguely Beer Flavored Vitamin Water”. Ahem. We live and learn.

How about some statistics?

  • As anyone knows, you will sell more of any drink if you put it on the menu.
  • Leaving any drink as an off-menu choice to be explained by the bartenders and servers costs them time. Time they could be using to serve other guests or make drinks. Time is money.
  • In the dining room, it also adds a second problem of misunderstandings between customers and servers and also between servers and bartenders. More often than not, bartenders can make more than a few off menu non-alcoholic drinks, but few servers have been trained to understand the full spectrum of drinks the bartenders may know and be able to execute with the ingredients they have on hand. More than once I’ve told by a server that the extent of a restaurant’s non-alcoholic drinks is water, coffee, tea, and a few soft drinks, only to discover a completely different story when sitting at the bar and talking to a bartender.
  • Plus, asking about an off menu bar item means the server has to take a trip to the bar, get the attention of the bartender, ask what he can make, then bring that information back to the customer. More time wasted, and more money wasted.
  • When calculating pour costs for a bar menu, i.e. how much the ingredients in a drink cost, the management usually doesn’t even take into consideration the cost of non-alcoholic mixers, (unless they are exceptionally expensive.) Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, and Orange Juice, for example, must be squeezed every day, and are usually thrown out after a day or two. These ingredients are just part of the cost of doing business. Looking at it like this, selling non-alcoholic drinks is, essentially, making a profit on what is a “rounding error” for most bars and restaurants. Thus, non-alcoholic drinks may, in fact, help a bar to gain profit on what otherwise may go down the sink at the end of the night.
  • While we’re talking about costs, let’s not forget that most of the “pour cost” for drinks is usually in the spirits and alcoholic mixers, so from the restaurant’s perspective, putting a well executed non-alcoholic drink on the menu, even at a lower prices the regular cocktails, is probably going to have a higher profit margin for the restaurant than a regular cocktail. Something I am more than willing to allow for, if it encourages more restaurants and bars to serve good non-alcoholic drinks!
  • According to a Gallup Poll from 2004, on average, 37% of Americans totally abstain from liquor. A bit less for the younger folks, but significantly more once adults are over 50.

Americans and Alcohol

“According to the aggregated data, 63% of Americans report that they drink alcoholic beverages such as liquor, wine, or beer, while 37% totally abstain. Men are more likely than women to drink (69% vs. 58%), and adults under 50 are substantially more likely than adults over 50 to drink (70% of adults aged 18 to 49 drink alcoholic beverages, as do only 54% of those over 50).”

So, for adults, we’re talking about approximately 1 out of 3, to nearly 1 out of 2, Americans who don’t drink, depending on the average age of the patron in your restaurant.

If you don’t have an item on your food menu you can sell to one out of every three people that comes into your restaurant, would you consider it a success?

Likewise, then, is your restaurant’s bar menu a success, if the only option you offer to non-drinkers is water?

The Dark Horse Inn, 09.16.2016

Note, this is a collaborative post authored by both Missus and Mister Flannestad.

Aside from Old Bus Tavern, the place you are most likely to find the Missus and myself on a Friday night is The Dark Horse Inn on Geneva near Mission St in the Excelsior District.

Our exceedingly cool next-door neighbors also find themselves there on a regular basis, so we recently plotted to head there together to celebrate our shared discerning local expertise. It was great fun to enjoy the glee of their 5 year old son as he raced to the door in anticipation of the Dark Horse Inn’s secret kid’s menu item “chicken fingers”.  It was also hilarious when, in the spirit of buying rounds, we ordered him another glass of milk and he sighed, “I don’t need ANOTHER milk” when it was delivered.  It was not a double milk kind of night.

Last Friday night, we had the good fortune of being spotted at the bar by another friend (and a longtime Dark Horse regular) who graciously waved us over to join him and his wife at their table.  It turned out to be a wonderful night of trading stories, Midwestern brat haus experiences, and shared musical interests.  It was only after we realized that there were others waiting on our table, that we were able to tear ourselves away, and depart the good company.  On our way out we traded hellos and hi-fives with another regular at the bar who laughingly accused us of stalking him.

It’s this sort of friendly neighborhood atmosphere that reminds me a lot of the Taverns and Bars that the Missus and I grew up with in Wisconsin.

Dark Horse Inn keeps their beer taps filled with tasty and interesting local beers like Epidemic Ales’ Brain Bash, Local’s Hetch Hetchy IPA and St. Florian’s Bella Rosa Engine Stout (find Dark Horse’s always evolving tap list on They also have a very good beer bottle list.

(For those of you for which only hard liquor will do, note The Dark Horse Inn is Beer and Wine only. Plan ahead, or bring a flask, if you really need a post work Martini or Manhattan.)

Most of all, their hamburger is our current favorite in San Francisco.  The Missus, (a beer geek who enjoys the eclectic tap list and evil eyes anyone at the bar who ignorantly orders an Old Style,) argues it’s consistently the hands-down BEST BURGER IN SF! They also offer unique daily salads, custom burgers, and other specials advertised via Instagram teasers. Chicken & waffles! Sunday night dinners! Brisket! We need to step-up beyond our regular Friday night visits to take advantage of these opportunities in deliciousness.

The non-alcoholic drink list isn’t fancy, but provides good options for grown ups, (even if the Mister would rather not have the taste of rose petals in his lemonade). Also, the free re-fills on regular non-sugary iced tea is an (un)sweet deal.

Dark Horse Drink Menu
Dark Horse Drink Menu

The Mister’s current go to non-alcoholic beverage is Milwaukee’s finest root beer, Sprecher Brewing, available at all times.

Sprecher Root Beer at the Dark Horse.
Sprecher Root Beer at the Dark Horse.

There are many options at the Dark Horse Inn beyond beverages, whether sitting alone at the bar or with a table of your ten best friends. Along w/ a few TV sets airing sports games there is always one screening esoteric film classics. What a pleasant array of options!

Whether you are craving a burger, the “Kimchi Reuben” (made with house smoked pastrami), interesting beer, good company, or all of the above, The Dark Horse Inn is a great place to go. Sit at the bar. You’ll probably make some new friends.

Old Devil Moon, 09.09.2016


On the way home from dinner at Old Bus Tavern, we stopped by Old Devil Moon (Facebook Link).

The space which Old Devil Moon took over had long been a Latin Bar, but the owners wanted to retire and a group of folks who had been involved in the San Francisco Homebrew club wanted to open a bar. Win/Win.

The owners have been working on remodeling the bar for quite a while, six months to a year, while the neighborhood patiently awaits its chance to deliver a verdict on the new venue.

We were initially going to meet up at Old Devil Moon with some friends who have a 5 year old. When I questioned the owners via instagram whether the venue would be “kid friendly”, I got the following reply, “We welcome everyone! We’re more a “bar with food” than a “restaurant with alcohol,” so it’s the sort of spot that may feel a little too rowdy for kids after a certain hour.” We did stop by with our friends and their son, but there was no space to sit, and, at 6:30pm, already looked a little “rowdy for kids”. Hey, it is their first week open. So we went elsewhere for dinner.

Mrs. Flannestad and I wanted to get back in and check it out, without having to worry about whether it was kid friendly, so we stopped in last night.

They do have a very good tap list of beers, including a few under 5%, so nearly non-alcoholic. They even feature Cask Ales, at this time from Freewheel Brewing, on beer machine. So, if you don’t mind a little alcohol, there you go, a few options.

As is recently trendy in modern venues, they also have spirits and mixed drinks on tap: Fernet, Bourbon, Mint syrup flavored Bourbon (“Poor Man’s Sazerac”). I think they also sometimes have cold brewed Coffee on nitro, but I didn’t see this on the menu when I visited.

On the other hand, as far as I can tell, the only truly non-alcoholic option, other than maybe nitro-coffee, is a self serve ice water dispenser at the back of the restaurant. It is flanked by stacks of the sorts of red plastic cups you’d see at a Pizza Parlor, down to the authentic tang of disk sanitizer. (Did they get them used?) Nothing on the food, drink, or beer menus to indicate even a single non-alcoholic option. And, so far, they’ve been so swamped every time I’ve been in, that I haven’t had the chance to ask if they could make me an off menu non-alcoholic drink.

I guess, like the kid thing, they didn’t figure non-drinkers would be going to a “bar with food”. (See update below, they do have non-alcoholic options, they just were not currently listed on any of the menus.)

Did I mention it is really loud? Sound baffling also must have been a low priority. For someone like myself, with incipient tinnitus from too many loud rock shows, it’s kind of a nightmare. Nearly deafening.

So, it’s an interesting addition to the neighborhood, but the noise level probably makes it not really my scene on busy nights, (which, fortunately for them, seem to be most nights,) despite the good beer and some off menu non-alcoholic drink options.

Updated 09.11.2016:

Received from following comment via instagram from one of the owners of Old Devil Moon. They do have some non-alcoholic options, you just have to ask. Next time.

“For the record, Old Devil Moon has all the nonalcoholic beverages any full liquor bar has, and more, including a variety of juices, ginger beer, and sodas (we even have grapefruit and clementine Izzy on the soda gun), as well as nitro coffee. Obviously, it’s been packed on the opening days after articles came out in several major online publications in SF. We’ve had families and kids in there every day during the early hours, regardless. We’ve been thrilled by the reception we’ve gotten from the neighborhood, almost to a person the locals we’ve heard from are super excited to have us here. If you give us another try, next time you’re in ask a bartender about drinks. Also, in the future when you do your write ups, consider reaching out to the owners or managers of the venues to verify your information, I would’ve been more than happy to have spoken with you via email or in person. Cheers and hope to see you in ODM again!”