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A Bourbon At...Cresta's 2211 Club

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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: Naseema Khan]

If bars on Polk Street--say north of Shanghai Kelly's -- represent a war zone for attractive and raucous twenty-something bombshells out to impress each other, consider Cresta's 2211 Club a bunker: shelter for the relaxed, no-pressure-drinking, dive enthusiast looking for a night off from the fight.

It's a classy oasis in a desert of sceney bars on Polk that become less and less appealing as one ages. Or, as my drinking buddy Mark, who's been going to Cresta's since 1993 described it, "a place to come have a beer after work, decompress, and have an honest conversation. But not a place to get laid." I reckon Mark probably hasn't nailed anything other than that comment in a while.

No, the hornball inside is best nurtured next door at Bullitt or one of a number of other stops on the block: Green’s, Shanghai’s, Tonic, Rouge or Royal Oak. While they’re pouring swill out of a tap at the former, Cresta’s patrons are drinking Basil Hayden’s.

The bar itself is a matchbox. And the only places to sit are the 15 or so stools that run the bar. Perhaps that’s what keeps the crowds out generally. That, or the sight of older locals boozing it up; or the fact that the bar smells like a shirt you just got from a thrift store.

But to be fair, the place isn’t dirty at all. In fact, it’s well kept and carries a nice mood once the lights are dimmed and the small candles are lit along the bar, and there’s usually oldies or classic rock giving the place a pulse. The all-wood interior provides a cavernous warmth, and a classic divey saloon feel. Things you'd hope for -- and don't always get -- from a bar hat’s been in business for over 50 years.

A hard-working Italian man, Allen Cresta used to host family and friends at the bar for Thanksgiving or a Christmas party or other gatherings that you didn’t have to be on a list to attend. As a frequenting neighbor or a friendly patron, you knew you were invited.

Rest in peace Allen Cresta. While everyone else on the block competes to be the hippest bar in the land, your club remains a family-like haven for neighborhood folk and the weathered patrons who love to tell them never-ending neighborhood stories.
-Eddy El Espia

Cresta's 2211 Club

2211 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA