“It’s all about indulgence,” says a small fraction of things I consumed over four nights at Broken Record: a vinegar-laced barbeque pulled pork sandwich; Basil Hayden’s 8 Year and Four Roses Single Barrel, both on the rocks; the staff’s favorite summer tuna avocado wrap with tomato salsa and crispy onions; broccoli with melted cheese and Cajun salt; a 10-year single, neat; a soft shell crab fritter sandwich with mayo, avocado, chopped celery and lettuce; creamy polenta with truffle oil and parmesan and baked mac ‘n cheese sped down the pipes with Fuck Your Stupid wheat beer gulps.
[Photo: Naseema Khan]
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.
I know what you’re thinking: "Oh hell yes." Did those four days involve a hike through the Blue Ridge mountains and a canvassing of the state of Kentucky for bourbon distilleries and good bluegrass? That’d be remarkable. But no. ‘Cause it’s South City, not The South, friends. The Broken Record is right here. Take the BART to Balboa Park and walk it; 14 could run you down Mission to Geneva; or you can whip down the 280 and exit Geneva. Most people walk from home.
The Broken Record has been open about four years, preceded by a Mexican joint called Mama’s Kitchen where, word is, the owner drank his way out. Next up, Record’s owner Jason King achieved his goal: a shotgun blast of every cross section in the city, welcoming 100% of the time.
Inside, black walls and a rustic wood frame impart hints of biker, but that’s softened by art on the walls. A dart area right up front leads into the backwards L-shaped bar, enclosing the decadent vision of row upon row of whiskeys and scotches. A mounted boar’s head, its snout adorned with shredded panties, chaperones.
To the right, a pool table pulls lots of action into its half-black, half-red den, separated by an arched opening. Ten observers can take things in from stools or just stare into the opposing mirrored wall.
Down a long corridor, the dimly orange-lit dining area beckons with laminated wood picnic-like tables, always slammed together this way and that, then strewn with candles for parties of various sizes. I’ve seen a 60th birthday party, both blue- and white-collared post work sessions, hipster meetings, and the gamut enjoying sit-down meals. Everyone enjoys an indoor backyard with a menu that embarrasses any barbeque he’s ever been to.
Usually cooks listen to jazz, frying up slick diner fare at a relaxed trot. There’s a thriller or sci-fi flick rolling on a projected screen and folks of all walks convene.
You can order food in the restaurant area and head back to the bar to await delivery. That’s my tack every time: so I can make friends with some of the 64 bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys, ten American single malts, 23 ryes, eight un-aged corn and rye whiskey “moonshines,” and 20 Irish whiskeys. Ther’s also an entire Scotch menu I didn’t even look at—because bourbon gives me blood flow. Other clear booze is rightly nestled out of plain view in a little cubby beneath all the brown. And everything's accompanied by plenty of tasty brews -- you know -- in case you need to smooth out a ragged bourbon or scotch buzz.
Bartenders invite questions, offer up bourbon recs for drinkers to test drive or pair with something. And friendliness flows from the kitchen too. I was comped bacon cheese fries once because they ran out of bacon, and was offered a free round of broccoli just because I expressed interest. They didn’t know I was writing about the place.
It’s a bar making brown booze and soul food symbiotic. And like most dives, it’s an incredible spot if you show up and carry yourself as is. But hey, if you don’t want to venture here, and you prefer to drink where you always do, so be it. The Broken Record’s got a message to you, and you’ll understand why when you make your visit: Fuck Your Stupid Bar.
—Eddy El Espia