There’s something to be said about what happens when you hear about the impending closure of your once-upon-a-time local, that spot where you spent many formative years drinking, eating, and carousing about. The news hits in a weird spot, reminding you that, yes, time is in fact marching forward and the things you felt you could rely on forever always do have an opportunity to fall away — just like that.
That’s exactly how I felt when I read the news that the Excelsior’s Broken Record will be closing its doors on October 15, as first reported and further lamented by Broke-Ass Stuart, to never again serve a glass of Four Roses bourbon on tap. I frequented the bar from 2008 to 2012 as a sometimes-resident of a four-roommate household on that side of the city, my third apartment in San Francisco, to be exact, after years of bridge-and-tunneling it from the East Bay where I grew up. For our house, Broken Record was the place to go when we needed an excuse to leave the cozy confines of our place, oftentimes lured by the burger-and-tots pop-up that existed in the back (when pop-up chasing was less of a sport) and the fact that the bar offered far more liquor than the dredges of our leftover party bottles.
I wasn’t a food writer back then, so the details of bar owners’ names and who ran the pop-up have definitely escaped me in the space of ten years, but sometimes you just remember the feel of a place. So color me surprised to now find out that Broken Record has only ever existed since 2006 or 2007 (according to Stuart); it’s the type of bar that feels like it’s been there for years far beyond its 15, a well-worn, broken-in neighborhood spot meant for those within walking distance. You hung out with your friends there; you were sometimes goaded into a game of pool with strangers there; and, sometimes, you had a deep moment with some of the cigarette smokers on the sidewalk outside. From time to time, on your way home and walking past, you make an unexpected dip inside just to see what’s going on. Maybe you stay a bit longer than planned, but that’s the beauty of your dive — it’s a place to let the unexpected happen.
It’s probably best that photos of those years only exist on SD memory cards and not on anyone’s smartphones because that means those times replay in your mind the way only nostalgia can allow. Perhaps the bar was grimier than I remember or was a gruffer spot than a lone girl should have reasonably visited. But with the space of time, I recall it as perfect: no 20-ingredient cocktails, just PBRs or a cup of bourbon, a game on the TV, and a perfectly lovely and lively conversation with a friend or a barstool neighbor-stranger. We all have our spot, and Broken Record was mine. I’ll be dropping by to see the ol’ gal one last time, and if your version of Broken Record is still around, drop by there and raise a glass — there’s no time like the present.