Polk Street just got a lovely new bar that feels like a breath of fresh air from the usual dive-hopping scene. Open since mid-December, Macondray serves fruity cocktails, natural wine, and local beer, along with oysters, lobster rolls, and vinegar-dusted fries. Oh, and it’s gorgeous. Taking over the old space from Bullitt, the hard-drinking hangout at 2209 Polk Street, the bar has been completely transformed — the space is now washed with green paint, studded with warm metal details, and overloaded with lush green plants.
This is the first personal project for owner Aaron Paul — the former bar director for Daniel Patterson’s Alta Group, where he designed the cocktail menus for Alta, Alfred’s, Kaya, Besharam, and Dyafa — and partner Jake Roberts, the longtime bar manager at Harper & Rye. The industry pros both happened to grow up in small towns in Maine, hence the interest in fun fish snacks. But the two didn’t meet until working in San Francisco, and for this project, Paul says they really just wanted to create a sweet neighborhood bar.
“Russian Hill is my favorite neighborhood. I’ve always wanted to open a bar here,” Paul says. “It’s the perfect neighborhood, so picturesque, like a postcard of what San Francisco should look like. There are people who have lived here forever, and actually support their local businesses. We wanted to open a comfortable bar where people want to come in, know their bartenders, have a yummy snack, and just hang out.”
Having crafted cocktail menus for so many different restaurants, from steakhouse old fashioneds to curry infusions, Paul wanted to come back to the comforting and familiar. “It’s not high concept,” he insists. “We’re serving colorful, crowd-pleasing drinks and sneaking in a few fresh flavors.” Having worked in bars since the ‘90s, and having seen melon-tini trends come and go, he does have a penchant for the fruity and pink — not fake and sugary, but real fresh fruit and sweet-tart balance. There will always be a spicy margarita on the menu, with a fifty-fifty split of tequila and mezcal; right now it’s infused with pomegranate and thyme. In a city tiptoeing toward $20 cocktails, all of the cocktails at Macondray are priced at a refreshing $12.95. Wine leans natural, and beer is local, coming from Modern Times and Pine Street Brewery.
A good lobster roll is hard to find in San Francisco. They can also be divisive, between the Connecticut style that’s warm with butter, and the Maine style which are chilled and served with mayo. These are all Maine, using a grandmother-approved method. Paul says, “You want a hot dog bun on steroids, one that looks like it ate too much at Thanksgiving. I like the lobster with lemon and not too much mayo. And it has to be hot on the outside, and cold on the inside.” He says his new regulars are also going wild for the “pier fries,” inspired by seaside fries served with malt vinegar, but instead of wetting them down, the cooks are tossing them with a tangy dehydrated powder. There are also oysters, mussels, and crudo, filling the menu with fish, and panko-crusted chicken tenders and baby burgers for standard bar bites. And really good pie, courtesy of Revenge Pies, the cult-favorite bakery that recently closed its pie window, but is now bringing its all-butter vodka crust to new venues like this one.
The space has undergone a total transformation, as Marissa Jade Marsh, a former restaurant designer for the Puccini Group, turned what was a standard-looking dude bar into a green and golden terrarium full of plants. Big front windows open up all the way to 18-foot ceilings. A long bar is topped with rusted and distressed steel, as are high shelves and other accents. Low tables at the front, high tables at the back, and 14 seats at the bar, combine for a 50 seats total, cozied in with leather banquettes and tufted green velvet chairs.
And Paul, who always kept live herbs at his station as a bartender, asked all of his friends to bring in plants. “Oh, it’s dripping with plants,” he says. Plus, a DJ booth upstairs will spin funk, soul, and jazz beats, rolling into a disco brunch on the weekend.
Macondray is now open seven days a week, serving food from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m., and drinks until 2 a.m. Weekend brunch is Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. See the full menu below: