Dueling Saloons: Club Waziema vs. Minibar
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The Premise: Two writer/bartenders rendezvous in one of San Francisco’s many neighborhoods. Each pick a different bar which they proceed to pit against the other according to a set of aesthetic and practical criteria, each bar like a proud crested cock eager to prove its worthiness in the well-pecked ring that is San Francisco’s bar scene.
The borough: This week the two bow-legged scribes meet in The Western Addition, which not long ago was a borough considered unsavory by most dandified marshmallow heads. While that breed of people has in the last ten-odd years become fairly ensconced, a bit of flavor and savor remains, and the establishments which will be under discussion do their part in contributing to it’s lingering piquancy.
In one corner we have Club Waziema, a roomie establishment with Ethiopian food and pool tables in the back. It’s defender: Anne Onymous -In the opposite corner is Minibar, a self-proclaimed art bar. It’s defender: Johnathon Doe
Johnathon Doe: Minibar has a mixed aesthetic; it’s a neighborhood bar that your grease monkey uncle would feel comfortable shooting the shit in over beers, while also offering some visual stimulation for the art-inclined. Baseball/basketball/football noises murmur from a single television without dominating the aural scene. Hard rock was the the predominant jam the night we went. It’s decibel level varied during our stay but it never rose to deafening. It smelled nice and fresh, too.
Anne Onymous: At Waziema, the vibe is vaguely Edwardian wallpaper peeling at the edges, PBR, pool, aromas of injera and cooking spices. The owners and staff are super laid back to the point of somnolence. The EDM echoing around Waizima’s drafty interior that night seemed jarringly at odds with its prevailing mood of casual dishabille.
Anne Onymous: Ask one of the affable staff behind the bar at Waziema to make you a Last Word or a Oaxaqueno and you’ll likely receive a puzzled smile before he or she’s attention shifts to one of the many patrons who just want a shot and a beer. They have an adequate selection of liquids but don’t come looking for that holy grail bottle of Amer Picon or a barrel aged Boulevardier. However, DO come looking for cheap Ethiopian food that tastes good, drunk or sober. The bread stuff known as injera is the PERFECT thing to soak up booze; hell, it’s literally an edible fucking sponge.
Johnathon Doe: The guys at Minibar know from mixing a drink but it’s not a fussy temple of libationary douchery. They have a solid collection of spirits and suds and a small list of signature and classic cocktails.
Anne Onymous: Waziema has, for the most part, proved to be admirably resistant to the inexorable tsunami of rapid inflation that makes many aspects of life in S.F. disastrous to one’s fiscal health. This probably means it’s days are numbered.
Johnathon Doe: Minibar wows with neither bargain-basement prices nor with the vertiginous price tags you find fixed upon drinks in the city these days. If I recall correctly, there’s a three dollar Hefeweizen on tap that’s delicious.
Johnathon Doe: Minibar’s crowd, on the Friday we went, was a demographic hodgepodge, each element co-existing comfortably. Ensconced at a table was a group of boisterous, overly fit Castro-ites; moping at one corner of the bar were a cluster of Elliot Smiths carefully clad in tattoos and black clothing; in the other, sports fans glued to the television. We chatted with a regular named Michael J., a working class black man intent upon the game who’d been living in the neighborhood long enough to remember when he himself wasn’t an endangered species within it.
Anne Onymous: Given it’s roughhewn quality, the Friday night crowd at Waziema was surprisingly square and middle to upper middle class. A lot of Macy’s rack and Northern Face. This gaggle of fresh faces washed out much of the local color that I usually associate with Waizima.
Anne Onymous: Waziema’s WC is cramped (the entrance door practically smacks you in the ass while you’re doing your business at the commode) and lacked the requisite feeling of privacy necessary to induce full urethral relaxation (I’m a bit pee shy), as it gives right onto a cluster of busily occupied tables.
Johnathon Doe: Airy and well painted.
The two bars differ widely in most aspects. One had the advantage of great drinking food; the other, cultural titillation and a somewhat better breed of grog. The two fighting cocks in the aforementioned metaphor are more like two different-colored pigeons with little interest in each other, one of whom’s feathers show slightly more wear.
RESULT: Apples and oranges. Both places made a good showing but neither emerged as a clear victor. If you’re looking to us for qualitative certainty, kindly look elsewhere.
837 Divisadero St.,
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