Broke-Ass Bar Guide – 440 Castro

With over 2,000 gin bins on the Barbary Coast, we here at BAS thought it might be time to catalogue them and keep you informed on what they have to satiate your thirsty, thirsty ways. So, here is the Broke-Ass Bar Guide – San Francisco. You get to know a little bit about what goes on behind the blinking neon cocktail glass and if you happen to find yourself perched on a barstool, how to leave with the least amount of injury incurred to your moth-eaten pockets. Here’s mud in your eye!

This week’s installment:

440 Castro

The Run-Down

As noted in a previous post, if your senses are of the delicate variety, you might want to skip this well-“seasoned” dive altogether. Words like cologne, vanilla, and clean-cut would be less descriptive then, say, sweat, piss and overgrown. Not as visceral as some of the dens of inequity you’ll find South of Market,  though the chances of encountering a man’s face buried in another’s armpit (among other places) are still pretty high. It’s location, however, allows enough of a mixed crowd and it wouldn’t be unusual to encounter the occasional cackling bridal shower party looking for something naughty. Oh, and if you’re pee-shy you should probably avoid using the urinal, which has a mirror above the trough and tends to be somewhat tactile. Both bathrooms have a heady aroma, though, so you won’t really be missing out on any ambience.

The bar is cash only. No grub regularly. No outside area.

The Back Story

This space actually has the distinction of being one of the last holdouts from the neighbourhood’s former existence as a Scandinavian- Irish- German enclave. The building went up around 1888 according to Sanborn Map records. The space is unlisted through the thirties, but around 1937 it was opened by Thomas Gallagher as Gallagher’s Tavern and, later, as Gallagher’s T&T Buffet Tavern (phone no. HE-mlock 3419), which it would stay as until 1976. According to the current owners, the joint was supposedly popular with the SFPD and the street’s old timers.

Next was the Bear Hollow, which gives you an idea of the aesthetic. Like Gallagher’s it also served food upstairs (now Thailand Restaurant.) It had a patio, pinball and pool and was popular with bikers and guys who favored stubble, Levi’s and flannels, as well as starting a long tradition of heavy cruising. In ’86 it just went by The Bear and lost the whole food part – probably for the best, as that the idea of dining in its current incarnation seems a little rough. Before becoming Thailand, the upstairs was briefly known as the Grand Victoria, which I like to believe was some sort of foppish Victorian themed bar overflowing in doilies and ferns. Probably not, though.

In ’95, downstairs was bought by Phillip Turner who took it the next level as Daddy’s, offering dirt cheap beer busts,“red hankie” nights and parties like “A Hole Lot of Holes.” In 2005, it changed hands again and a year later switched the name to 440, which is the red-lit gem we have today.

The Cheap

For a place that has the word “booze” proudly emblazoned on its awning, 440 hardly disappoints. The drinks are among the stiffest on the block and they usually have some sort of special going on, such as the potentially disastrous ‘wooden nickel” days (Wed: 12pm-close; Fri: 12pm to 8pm) which entitles you to a second round of whatever you are drinking with a nickel they give you with the first. If you feel slightly out of place here at first, by your third order, you’ll undoubtedly feel nice and cozy basking in the glow of edited muscle porn streaming on the tube. If you need to stretch a dollar, this ain’t a bad place to start a night before the diving into whatever other circus you’re off to.

440
440 Castro Street (btw 18th and Market Streets)
[Castro/ Eureka Valley]
SF
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About the author

Stephen Torres - Threadbare-Fact Finder

Stephen's early years were spent in a boxcar overlooking downtown Los Angeles. From there he moved around the state with his family before settling under the warm blanket of smog that covers suburban Southern California. Moving around led to his inabilty to stay in one place for very long, but San Francisco has been reeling him back in with its siren song since 1999. By trade he pours booze, but likes to think he can write and does so occasionally for people like the SF Bay Guardian. He also likes to enoy time spent in old eateries, bars and businesses that, by most standards, would have been condemned a long time ago.

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