Despite the goings-on elsewhere in the city, it’s hard to deny that San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood seems to be in the midst of a bar renaissance. In the past six months, the area has welcomed a handful of new watering holes including that Gatsby-style restaurant and bar Harlequin, Dragon Horse Bar and its late-night sushi and cocktails, and the cheeky wine bar Sluts from the beleaguered owner of now-closed Oakland restaurant Hi Felicia.
Now, there’s a well-appointed neighborhood sports bar to add to the list. The new Yerba Buena bar comes from Eric Passetti and Marissa Marsh, a pair of experienced San Francisco bar professionals. Passetti has put his stamp on bars including Café Terminus, House of Shields, Natoma Cabana, and pizza spot-slash-tiki bar Pie Punks, which is right next door to this latest project. Marsh, who’s also involved with the Japanese listening bar-inspired Harlan Records and Polk Street’s Macondary, joins Yerba Buena as both a partner and the designer.
Marsh says Passetti has had his eye on the Yerba Buena space, which was formerly home to longstanding sports bar Steff’s, ever since launching Pie Punks. So when the owner of Steff’s decided to wind down the business, Passetti made a natural choice to step in. “It’s kind of a really good time for us to be opening this, and we happily welcome sports fanatics,” Marsh says. ‘“We just want to have this really good lively comfortable welcoming bar.”
The 1,800-square-foot space got a fresh new look with the goal of capturing the feel of an old-school sports bar with a bit of English pub energy tossed in for good measure. That means Marsh upcycled chairs that formerly graced a golf course lounge and hung plenty of sports memorabilia on the walls. In the main room, there are about 20 seats at the bar, plus high tops scattered throughout the space. A back room with an L-shaped “baseball-glove-inspired” banquette, as Marsh describes, can accommodate another 20 or so guests and acts as a private space for parties.
Notably, while this is a sports bar, the team pared back the number of TVs. There are just four mounted into the back bar, plus one more screen in the back room. Marsh says they have the bar set up to project one game on a large screen against the wall, which is what will be playing on the sound system. Overall, they wanted to avoid the screens making things feel overstimulating. “We wanted to just tailor it down and have it just be not so in your face,” she says.
There’s no kitchen, but customers are welcome to bring over a slice or grandma pie from Pie Punks next door — or from any of the other restaurants in the neighborhood. Bar operator Jake Roberts worked with West Bev Consulting on the cocktail menu, which will keep things familiar with riffs on classic drinks. For now, the plan is to open at 2 p.m. and keep the drinks pouring until “late,” Marsh says. “We want to start and see how the neighborhood reacts and how long they stay,” she says.
Marsh points out that the bar’s location off 2nd Street means it’s on the way to Oracle Park for anyone who might be walking over to a game from Market Street. But beyond being convenient for people passing through, they hope the Yerba Buena will become a local haunt for SoMa residents and anyone heading back downtown to the office. “I think we really just want to bring some life back to that neighborhood,” she says.
The Yerba Buena (141 2nd Street, San Francisco) is now open from 2 p.m. to Monday through Saturday.