A Bourbon At?is sponsored by our friends at Basil Hayden’s Bourbon. Basil Hayden’s is handcrafted, light-bodied and aged longer with twice as much rye to produce an incredibly approachable, sophisticated and luxurious bourbon. It’s spicy. Unexpected. And full of potential. Just like your plans tonight.[Photo: Jennifer Yin]
Located in the heart of Union Square, Gold Dust is attractively marked on the outside by a classic theater-esque marquee of white bulbs -- visual enticement for the inexperienced visitor and for locals who braved their way to Union Square for some shopping.
The bar’s attractiveness is actually further enhanced when you walk inside, as it has a curious Renaissance-meets-Western Saloon type feel. A giant fresco covers the ceiling and a few pieces of “art” adorn the walls. All of this is uniquely contrasted by a long oakey bar tended by servers in white shirts and black ties, with impressive chandeliers hanging overhead holding dimmed orange bulbs. The old maroon leather booths that line the walls to the right are well kept and give a good option for sipping a freshly made and delicious Irish Coffee while taking it all in.
But the bar overall seems as confused as this Western Renaissance décor. One of the bartenders, with inexplicable haughtiness, told me that it was one of the oldest and most classic bars in SF, opened in 1933. Errrrrrr! Wrong dude. The oldest bars in town were opened in the 1860’s, and I’d love for someone to explain to me how a classic bar hosts people flashing pictures non-stop while they sing along to Freebird. I’m almost certain that in the early days Gold Dust had a real saloon-like feel that is great for bars?you can sense it. But whatever it had seems lost today.
To make matters tougher, booths are rarely available at night, most of the other servers wearing the ties have taken on the miffed vibe, and “taking it all in” with your bourbon means listening to cheesy 80’s music while you make small talk with visitors from Omaha and wait for a terrible cover band in the back corner to take the bar over, eliminating any possibility of talking without yelling.
If there were some way to remove the people, the bartenders and music, and replace them with a ragtime piano player and an Irish Coffee dispenser, the Gold Dust Lounge would be one of the better bars in town.
-Eddy El Espia