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A Bourbon At...Blooms Saloon


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: Cody Gantz]

The first thing I saw when I walked in was a small chalkboard pinned above the bar, reading: “Wanted: Young bimbo to feign love for three weeks, then steal my DVD’s.”

Quite the greeting. But lets begin this tale with a history of the saloon. On one of my first evenings at Blooms, Sheila, the Tuesday night bartender, warmly served me up bourbon rocks and told me what she knows. She's a fast talker, about two shades from tweaked-out, but again, extremely lovely. She started drinking at Blooms at 27, got a job two years later and has been working here ever since...for over 20 years.


According to Shiela, a fellow by the name of Joe Cardinale (pronounced Car-din-uhh-lay) opened this bar well before the Prohibition Era and kept it open as a speakeasy throughout. He was of Italian descent: the sort of blue collar, port-working guy that built the backbone of the area a century ago. Blooms is deeply rooted; and Cardinale's family still lives nearby.

Even though the place has miles, it feels young when you walk inside. Like it had a makeover some ten or 20 years ago. The space is a wide rectangle, with a long bar on the right leading to an larger back space with pool table, dart board, one of those internet jukes and pin ball and arcade games in a nook on the left. All signs of a bar moving with the times instead of staying salty with Cardinale and those grizzled corn-kernel-teethed sea captains who turned whiskey bottles upside down and broke them on the walls.

Along these lines, when you read any review of Bloom’s anywhere, you’ll assuredly find a comment about the incredible view of the city. Forgive me patrons, but the view is as overrated as Dodgers baseball this year. There’s a tree blocking the bulk of the view of the east side of town. All you can really see is the Transamerica and westward, which is less than half of the skyline, a piece of the Bay Bridge, the lights of AT&T and cars driving down the 280. It’s sweet, but I didn’t have to change my pants.

Bloom’s is, however, a very sports-friendly establishment with three large flat screens all showing Giant’s and 9ers if they’re on. And a good crowd of sports fans usually follows. There are all kinds of Giant's and 9ers memorabilia strewn about: posters and framed pics and Wheaties boxes with Jerry Rice and the Superbowl XXIX champs on them and shit. Everywhere. It’s sincere.

Overall, I’m not hating on the joint. Sheila's been known to comp a drink from time to time. She treats non-regulars like welcomed guests, and it’s a good spot to post up for a bourbon and a few innings. You can bring some classy bar grub in with you?like duck confit tacos from Papito or sushi from Umi next door?and mingle just like any easy-going bar if you’re not a complete asshole or a nerd.

But what the place doesn’t have is a ton of character or distinguishing features other than the back deck, which is sadly only used twice a year on the Fourth of July and in October for a local elementary school fundraiser. They don’t have a license to drink back there and ABC will bust balls if they randomly inspect or a neighbor complains. So they rarely try to get use out of it.

Bloom Saloon is a relic of the past?one that just doesn't have that grainy connection to it. But it’s in a great and up-and-coming neighborhood and serves its purpose as a place serving booze ‘til 2 a.m. for sports-lovers and people who want to have a no-pressure night out. If you’re around the Potrero and want a quick bourbon and some sports, look no further. If you are out looking for a new interesting bar but don’t live nearby, look further.

-Eddy El Espia


Blooms Saloon

1318 18th Street, San Francisco, CA

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