Everyone knows you’re supposed to go easy on the ol’ liquid sauce when you’re sick. You’re supposed to stay home, drink jugs of water, and eat handfuls of vitamin C. That’s how you get better… but, that’s not any fun at all.
San Francisco’s The Devil’s Acre in North Beach however, has a different antidote for a cure. Their 22-page menu, or “Almanac of Restorative Libations” as they like to call it, is sure to have something to treat your every ailment. Think Jamba Juice, only instead of “boosts” you have eight different types of elixirs created by actual herbalists—actual herbalists, who also like to partake in the giggle juice. There are potions like the “Immunity Tonic” for colds and flu’s, the “Stress Soother” for you worry warts, and even the “Youth Elixir” whose Fo-Ti ingredient is believed to prevent greying hair. Have your bartender mix one of these magic stimulants into your booze-ridden cocktail and you’re feeling better already. You’ve got a recipe for mischief, and this is the perfect place to find some.
Open since December, The Devil’s Acre—a saloon type bar with an old-timey vibe—is the newest venture from the genius minds behind the Future Bars team (they own and operate some of the best bars in SF, namely Bourbon & Branch, Rickhouse, and Local Edition). The tavern’s apothecary-theme stems from the fact that the building used to be a pharmacy back in the late 1800’s, and the attention to detail the designers made to making this legit, is apparent.
Everything from the century-old canisters lining the walls actually filled with odd (and old) ingredients to the malt shakers tacked onto the bar to the complete lack of barstools is authentic. Back then you didn’t simply sit and quietly converse with a friend on your night out, you stood there, belly up to the bar, enjoying your Julep while you tied one on—bar fighting, gambling, and stamping your boots to the beats booming from the live band at the podium. The area was dubbed the Devil’s Acre, and—sorry New Orleans!—plenty of people will argue that it was thee place where jazz was born in the US.
These days, the region is better known as the Barbary Coast and is rich with history. While not quite as boisterous as its past dalliances, it still sometimes gets the reputation as being a bit seedy… but with all the new hotspots popping up along Columbus, it has increasingly become more popular, and as Jay Pouillot, the talkative and manically friendly bar manager puts it, “It’s just seedy enough that you’re like, ‘Oh boy, this is gonna be fun!’”
So whether you’re out for a spicy night at the bar, or you’ve planned ahead and booked a reservation to sit at one of the candlelit carved tables spread across the floor, The Devil’s Acre has something for everyone… just as long as you have a sliver of naughtiness in you. Try a Barbary Coast Original like the “Devil’s Manhattan” which promises to “instantly purify corrupted blood cells” or indulge in the “Pisco Punch” which served as the most popular, and expensive, liquor in San Francisco during the Gold Rush days.
After a couple Originals head down the unmarked staircase towards the back of the space and you’ll run into a separate basement bar aptly called Remedie. It’s a cozy one-roomed, low-ceilinged, dungeon-type of place that immediately makes you feel as though you’ve teleported even further back in time. The mixologist there will sling you age-old Period Specific Classics exclusive to the area like the “Three Sworn Enemies” which is named after the three vice’s of the time: drunkenness, opium and gambling, and rightly pays homage to those iniquities with bourbon for the drunkenness, grand poppy for the opium, and gold dust for the gambling. And yes, the drink does shimmer. You’ll want to stay here for a while.
And finally, for those of you who—bless your poor, poor souls—really are feeling sick and have fully come to a bar to not get boozy, this heavenly (hellish?) little gem of a bar has a treat for you too. The “Soda Fountain” is their very own in-house soda program which features drinks that actually, probably, really will help you get better. In the 1830’s pharmacies invented the soda fountain so doctors would have something yummy to give their patients to immediately wash out the awful taste of their medicine-latent creations. Here, quick! Have an Angostura Phosphate! …Or perhaps maybe just a Cream Soda.
The Devil’s Acre opens at 5pm on Tuesdays, and 3pm Wednesday through Sunday’s. Make a reservation unless you’re planning on belly upping at the bar. Which, as history shows, is not a boring place to be.
*As seen on LocaleMagazine.com