With sincerest apologies to bargoers of the Marina, the neighborhood’s newest cocktail destination can’t make a Red Bull vodka and won’t play any of today’s biggest hits — not even Justin Bieber, we already asked. Instead, you’ll be able to get a thoughtfully crafted cocktail, or a respectable classic drink, to enjoy with a healthy dose of soul, funk, and disco. That’s because For the Record, which opens today and celebrates its grand opening Thursday, May 19, is committed to cultivating the retro vibes of San Francisco’s wildest That ’70s Show dreams, from the wood paneling on the walls to the glittering disco balls dangling from the ceilings.
“It’s about creating the full experience here,” says owner Barry John Walsh. “It’s not just the drinks.” Though, of course, the drinks deliver, too.
Walsh brings plenty of experience to his first project; he’s a longtime employee of Future Bars, the prolific San Francisco group behind nightlife destinations like Bourbon & Branch and Pagan Idol. And he’s brought on another Future Bars alum to work on the cocktail menu. Coming off a stint as Bar Director for Liholiho Yacht Club and Good Good Culture Club, Janice Bailon previously spent time behind the stick at Bourbon & Branch and Devil’s Acre and has pulled together a full album of hits for For The Record. Every drink on the list of 10 takes inspiration from a different song from the late ’60s through the mid-’80s — each song serves as a jumping-off point for the drink’s flavor profile, she explains.
Take for instance the eye-catching, azure Superfly, named for the soulful 1972 James Mayfield classic, made with smoky mezcal balanced by lemon, passionfruit, and a touch of herbal Galliano liqueur. The California Soul channels the vibe of driving down Highway 1 on a summer day blasting Marlena Shaw, which, in cocktail form, tastes something like vodka with crisp and floral Lillet Blanc and honey. A bubbly float and a splash of Campari give the drink a layered look not unlike a California sunset.
With the Superstitious — a Stevie Wonder funk anthem transmuted into drinkable form via aged rum, housemade ube orgeat, coconut, and coffee — Bailon gets a little personal: not only was the song her go-to when she sang with the band at North Beach’s Tupelo, but ube is also a nostalgic flavor for Bailon, who’s Filipino American. “That’s a part of my childhood so I like to incorporate that into what I do,” she says.
There’s a respectable back bar for staff to work off so, yes, you can also walk in and order a gin and tonic. But if you’re trying to turn things up a notch, don’t be surprised if the staff steers you away from straight shots in favor of one of their Cheekies — so named because the mini cocktails are “just enough to fill your cheek,” Bailon explains. The disarmingly smooth Lowrider blends tequila and sweet-herbal Cardamaro, while the smoky Bad Girls combines mezcal and bittersweet Brucato Amaro. “The second that you have it, you’re like ‘Oh, we’re in trouble,’” Bailon jokes. And for the non-spirit drinkers, there are beers by the bottle or can and a shortlist of wines available.
For The Record’s food menu is definitely concise, but it’s backed by the creativity of consulting chef Frank Hua, known for his hit Hawaiian-inspired pop-up Unco Frank’s. Hua says he started researching food from the era but found himself faced with recipes for marshmallow and Jello salads and pineapple chicken. “Food that you don’t want to eat,” he says. “So I took a different approach.” Hua leaned into the idea of a retro dinner party but elevated the usual finger foods: deviled eggs get topped with smoked trout roe and coconut shrimp comes with a side of coco mayo. There are also some simple, solid bar food options including a Ceasar salad, fries, and porcini popcorn topped with white cheddar dust and brown butter.
Walsh says he’s been looking for the right space to break out on his own for some time. He settled into the low-ceilinged ground floor space that once housed Mina Test Kitchen (and more recently, U Dessert Story) and spent the last four months transforming the narrow room into a cozy bar-meets-conversation pit hybrid. Groovy patterned wallpaper from Benicia’s Bradbury & Bradbury wraps around the long, narrow main room, with a wall of green banquettes set across high-top tables leaving plenty of room for standing and sipping a drink.
Walsh also tapped a handful of local talents to fill out the space. Design consultant Britt Henze painted a striped mural that strikes, lightning bolt-like, around the space. Design consultant Ivan Mora hung a disco ball installation in the backroom, and there’s a hand-painted sign hanging out front by Fernando Garcia. Even small touches speak to the retro-fabulous theme: a row of glowing lava lamps, a vintage radio cabinet, and framed art sporting psychedelic Bill Graham fonts. “I love history and when I was looking into the history of San Francisco, there was so much about this era,” Walsh says. “But there’s no bar that leans into it as much as we are.”
For The Record (2120 Greenwich Street) debuts Wednesday, April 27 and will be open from 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. to midnight Sunday.