1166 Geneva Avenue (between Edinburgh and Naples Streets)
San Francisco, CA 94112
If you can’t hang with dive bars or aren’t willing to venture into the far reaches of the Excelsior, Broken Record may stay off your radar. But you’d be the one missing out. Parking is easy, so why not? Go, and you may, like me, not only keep returning, but become downright giddy with the dynamite combo of top shelf, 150-plus whiskey selection (at crazy-low prices), surprisingly great cocktails, and killer housemade sausages and BBQ, which haunt your nostrils from the moment you enter. This is truly a “diamond in the rough” (emphasis on the rough).
As a bar, it’s divey-comfortable, replete with pool table, darts, jukebox and knowledgeable, affable, tattoo-covered bartenders. It’s dim but not dirty, mellow early evenings and weeknights, bustling at Friday’s Happy Hour with $2 pitchers of Pabst. The owner, Jason King’s, passion for the brown stuff (the aforementioned whiskeys, bourbons, scotches) shows in his impeccable selection. If you’ve wanted to sample top-notch whiskeys at lower prices than almost any other bar around town, this is place to hone the taste of your inner connoisseur. They make a beautifully-balanced Sazeracs and a dreamy Manhattan, not to mention Hot Toddies to warm a chilly night… and all for merely $4-5 on average, a rarity at this quality level. The shock comes when you realize they didn’t skimp on ingredients: yes, that’s St. George Absinthe rinsing your Sazerac glass! Hey, even I can be a big spender (and tip generously) here.
Then there’s the food. Head down the hallway to the down-home back room (plus charming outdoor patio) with mismatched booths, tables and chairs, an easy place to bring a group of friends. Everything is made with care and all under $7.50. Housemade Sausages include spicy Alligator ($7), Hot Links ($5.50), Venison with Cranberries and wine ($6), or my fave, Wild Boar with apples and wine ($6).
Biscuits ($1.50) with honey butter are unjustly good – I’ve tried sharing them and it doesn’t go over well. Order your own. Hush Puppies (lightly fried cornbread balls, made here with a touch of cheese and jalapeno, $4) or Buffalo Wings loaded with tender chicken meat, served with blue cheese and celery sticks ($6), are perfect for sharing. Specials might be a hearty bowl of Crawfish Etouffee ($6), mixed with savory rice and finely-browned roux – no skimping on juicy chunks of crawfish. BBQ sandwiches ($7.50), Pulled Pork topped with slaw or addictive Beef Brisket with pickled onions, secrete a smoky tenderness soooo good, in a North Carolina-style (read: vinegar-based) BBQ sauce. I finish with Toffee Crack (75 cents) – a dark chocolate toffee wafer – again, housemade.
I start drooling as soon as I walk into this place, knowing I’ll be treated well (the chefs remembered me by my second visit), enjoy a round of games with friends, and find my wallet unharmed by reasonable prices… I’ve spent $40 on four people and we ate like kings.