First Look: All-Star Team Opens Hip Bar, The Snug, in Pacific Heights

The coziest place to hang this winter in SF
November 28, 2017
by Trevor Felch

The gist: With a name like The Snug, it's easy to imagine a cozy, dark neighborhood tavern where locals might kick back a few pints by a fireplace. Part of that is true here; this is the casual "where everybody knows your name" pub niche that Pac Heights residents and Fillmore shopping crowds crave. But The Snug is much more than just another gastropub given the quality of the offerings and the glittery résumés involved. All together, The Snug is a come-as-you-are destination for a full dinner, a relaxed first date or a long night of cocktails and beer with friends.

Housemade Spam musubi. Photo by Allie Foraker

The food: Chef Brian Shin previously worked at some of the marquee kitchens in San Francisco (Benu, In Situ) and the country (Alinea in Chicago, Corton in New York). All are (or were) high-end destinations using an outside-the-box approach towards traditional fine-dining techniques and ingredients. Shin is doing the same here — just for neighborhood bar cuisine, instead of elaborate tasting menus.

Korean fried chicken wings. Photo by Allie Foraker

His menu is divided into three self-explanatory categories: Bar Snacks, Small Plates and Larger Plates. Each section demonstrates Shin’s intent to gently nudge comfort dishes and bar snacks towards a more intriguing dimension via a high-end technique or a playful flavor twist. Snacks include house-cured dill pickles and tater tots with “bacon" (a dehydrated soy product that tastes like bacon). The middle section includes Shin’s most exciting creations: an Old Bay lobster dip for puffy lobster chips (think shrimp chips with lobster); housemade Spam and kimchi in musubi-style lettuce wraps; and fun takes on sticky Korean fried chicken wings and fluke poke.

Sesame naan and shiitake mushroom hummus. Photo by Allie Foraker

The previous tenant was the Indian restaurant, Mehfil, and Shin inherited its tandoor oven for roasting meats and baking flatbreads. Shin uses the oven to bake sesame naan accompanied by a shiitake mushroom hummus and roast the tandoori chicken on top of a giant classic Cobb salad garnished with soft yolk eggs.

The Snug's Bodega "burger." Photo by Allie Foraker

Shin’s Bodega “burger” is really more like a messy hamburger sandwich served in halves à la Original Joe's. Hungrier appetites will also be satisfied by the pig trotter hot dog topped with perilla mustard, shiso-cucumber relish and an adventurous housemade ketchup made of pork knuckle mixed with puréed tomato.

The Yellow Rose cocktail (sunflower-infused vodka, bee pollen, yellow rose, honeycomb and lemon). Photo by Allie Foraker

The drinks: Cocktails and beer are the headliners for The Snug’s beverage program. Perhaps guests will follow the “liquor before beer and you’re in the clear” philosophy while spending an evening at the bar. But, really, you can’t go wrong with any of the beer or cocktail choices.

Photo by Allie Foraker

The tap list is curated by Zack Schwab and Shane Matthews, a pair of friends who worked together at The Monk's Kettle and New York’s beer nirvana, The Jeffrey. Northern California beers are the focus of the 14 taps and one cask engine. The beer roster is a strong one, with the Bay Area’s three most sought-after small breweries (Cellarmaker, The Rare Barrel and Sante Adairius) all on the opening tap list. Beer nerds should keep an eye on the special bottles and occasional out-of-state offerings.

A Prickly Pear cocktail with mezcal, nopales, prickly pear, habanero and amaro. Photo by Allie Foraker

Bar manager Jacob Racusin created a cocktail list that throws a few curveballs à la his prior stop, The Alembic. The Yellow Rose, a version of the honey-forward Bee’s Knees, includes sunflower-infused vodka, bee pollen and yellow rose. Another cocktail, simply called The Sour, is a savory riff on a whiskey sour with li hing mui (Chinese preserved plum). Racusin’s opening menu also offers two atypical cocktails on draft: La Ultima Palabra (mezcal, green chartreuse and maraschino liqueur) and a bubbly libation of gin and a dandelion-burdock soda called the Dandelion & Burdock. Racusin summarizes his philosophy for us: "We want to highlight classic cocktails people know and love but put our own unique spin on them with a personal touch. But if you just want a beer and a shot, you’ll still feel right at home.”

Don’t worry, wine fans — you haven’t been forgotten. A short list of wines by the glass are mostly from major Napa and Sonoma vintners like Matthiasson and Round Pond.

Photo by Allie Foraker

The space: San Francisco–based designer Britt Hull and her Tide Design Co. studio created The Snug’s classic-meets-contemporary Irish pub space, which sports vintage touches and an abundance of tiny Instagram-ready details.

Photo by Allie Foraker

Photo by Allie Foraker

The Snug’s layout is much more than “a snug” but it does have a distinct homey living room vibe with a bookshelf and a mounted bicycle built-for-two. Several little seating nooks range from large ground-floor communal tables and upstairs tables for small parties to side-by-side window seats for prime Fillmore people-watching — and an actual intimate "snug" booth. Make sure to check out the handsome 31-foot bar’s Douglas fir top, made of reclaimed wood from Vallejo’s Mare Island Naval Shipyard.

Coming in the next few months: Sidewalk seating. Stay tuned.

Photo by Allie Foraker

The details: 2301 Fillmore St.; 415-562-5092; open nightly from 4 PM–12 AM and until 2 AM Friday and Saturday. The kitchen is open until 11 PM nightly. Weekend brunch will begin soon.

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