UPCIDER, 1160 Polk St., 2nd Fl. at Sutter, 415-931-1797
Ever since savoring a fantastic New England cider pairing with each course of a fall dinner at NYC’s Gramercy Tavern years ago, I’ve wondered when we might witness the arrival of urban cider bars. SF’s new Upcider and Bushwhacker in Portland are it thus far. Two aspects of Upcider jump out immediately: Ozgun (Ozzie) Gundogdu and his sister’s warm welcome – Ozzie opened the bar with former roommate and co-worker Omer Cengiz – and a second story upstairs space with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Polk Street. One can sit along the windows, gazing below at busy Polk Street, enveloped by low-ceilings and a cozy glow, transported to a European bar or maybe even Turkey, Ozzie and Omer’s hometown.
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A new discovery was Julian Hard Cider from Julian, CA, a small Gold Rush town inland from Escondido and San Diego. Their tart, dry Cherry Bomb ($11 for 22 oz. bottle) is a fascinating cider with a funky finish. There’s Basque ciders, mead, wines and beers, and bar food from chef Tony Carracci (Cha Cha Cha). For the time being there are no ciders on tap, but that is due to the intensive plumbing rebuild necessary to meet city requirements. Hopefully, there will be a way to provide draft ciders in the future.
Whiling away summer evenings in Upcider feels like traveling… I noticed the neighborhood’s Middle Eastern community gathering below for friendly banter, a refreshing alternate side of a street lined with partiers and bar-hoppers. A hospitable welcome and leisurely environment heightens the senses at this unique, new hangout that also provides an education in a historically favored American drink.