Welcome back to the Boulevard Ear, a regular feature on The Bay Bridged, where our man about town examines a community’s live music offerings. What is it like to be a show-goer whose experiences are dictated entirely by location? Follow Todd as he explores Bay Area music venues by neighborhood, finding a variety of independent music along the way.
We are not averse to convention. Nay, it is the truly free and unrestrained wanderer who cares neither for being ordinary nor extraordinary.
However, we cannot deny that imbibing green beer behind barricades whilst the revelry careens towards holding one’s friend’s hair back strikes us as just a bit, well, louche.
So it is perhaps not surprising that, on this festival of things Irish, we find ourselves in surroundings more Mediterranean.
And yet, arriving in North Beach and descending Green Street, we are accosted by amplified Irish music outside O’Reilly’s. Here we find said barricades and fealty to green clothing. We have now dispensed with our theme.
Onward to Bottle Cap, a bar and restaurant on the site of the legendary Washington Square Bar and Grill. Shade, a new trio fronted by our esteemed colleague Ray Wilcox, is playing a few sets of laid back tasty grooves for the holiday diners.
Bottle Cap cleverly offers a range of food options, from happy hour bar snacks to full big-plate entrees. If the quality of the corned beef hash cabbage rolls we sampled is representative, then we can endorse the comestibles at this erstwhile dispensary.
We do, however check in at l’Osteria del Forno, one of our favorite neighborhood kitchens – tucked, as so many local greats, right among the tourist joints on Columbus. The overall quiet of the neighborhood is echoed here by several open tables. This does not interfere with our appreciation of their milk-roasted pork, penne with bechamel and bolognese, and a slice of their pesto pizza. The Valopocella was quite satisfactory as well.
Tosca is our least populated locale yet. Outgoing owner Janette Etheridge joins us in at the bar to summarize her 30 years of stewardship of this beloved landmark. She was sincerely confident its spirit and character will remain intact under the new ownership, and looks forward to relaxing at the bar as a customer.
Just 10 feet up the hill from this quintessential Italian bar, Specs (alternately Adler Museum Cafe, depending on which sign you believe) stands set back in a courtyard in stark contrast – it is the consummate image of the North Beach we fantasize Ginsberg, Cassidy, Kerouac and Ferlinghetti haunting.
Inside, napkin artist David Lovins is adding to his arsenal of square tableaux. He tells us that he is here almost nightly, biking up from his studio and living space in the Mission. His work shows a range from portraiture, cartoon, expressionism and more.
While we talk, pianist Joe Russo takes to the upright at back and pounds out Joe Turner’s “Shake Rattle and Roll,” Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart,” “Desperado,” by the Eagles, and the Beatles’ tearjerker, “For No One.”
We set out apace to our lair, anxious to report all we have observed.
And then, this.
Some nights just keep giving. Others never get off the starting block. We must take note of the epic triumphs, when they deign to visit us.