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A green cocktail with a popsicle garnish.
Polkcha takes its name from “pocha,” Korean for street vendor, and Polk Street, where the bar is located.
Hardy Wilson

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San Francisco’s Newest Cocktail Bar Transports a Late-Night Street Market to Polk Gulch

Polkcha opens on Friday, February 9 in the former Trade Routes space in the Polk Gulch neighborhood near Nob Hill

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Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

As of Friday, February 9, bargoers hopping their way up Polk Street will have a new destination to add to their list. At the end of this week, a new cocktail bar called Polkcha will open in the former Trade Routes space at 1750 Polk Street. The bar’s name is a portmanteau of “pocha,” a Korean word referring to outdoor food and drink vendors often found at night markets, and “Polk,” as in the street the new bar calls home. It’s from the same trio of owners who brought Trade Routes to the neighborhood in July 2021. That bar quietly closed last year so the owners could do a light renovation ahead of rolling out Polkcha.

Co-owners Ryan McCargar, Chen-Chen Huo, and Jay Ryoo got the idea for Polkcha from their experiences visiting street markets across Asia including Gwangjang in Seoul, Kuromon in Osaka, and Divisoria Market in Manila. McCargar created the drinks on the cocktail list, which is divided into four pretty self-explanatory categories: spirit-forward, sour, refreshing, and sweet. All the drinks take their names from street markets across Asia and incorporate Asian spirits and ingredients such as sake, soju, baijiu, ube, coconut, and Sichuan peppercorns. Notably, all the drinks come in at $15 or less, making Polkcha a relatively affordable cocktail destination in the city.

The Back Bay, a sesame and Sichuan peppercorn-infused old fashioned. Hardy Wilson
The Nishiki, a shiso sour. Hardy Wilson
The Hoi An, a Vietnamese coffee and tonic cocktail. Hardy Wilson
An ube colada cocktail called the Divisoria. Hardy Wilson

In the spirit-forward category, the bar offers the Back Bay, a sesame and Sichuan peppercorn-flavored Old Fashioned, and a pandan-infused Negroni made with tequila called the Hua Hin. Sweeter options include the Divisoria, an ube colada garnished with banana leaf and coconut flakes, and the Hoi An, a Vietnamese coffee and tonic concoction that’s crowned with salted cream foam. Refreshing drinks lean into spritz territory, including the melon-flavored Gwangjang, which gets a melon popsicle garnish, and the Kuromon, a sparkling sake spritz. In addition to the nonalcoholic Ameyoko, which blends green tea and mint, sour options include the gin and sake-based Nishiki, flavored with shiso leaf, and the Night Owl, a lychee sour starring baijiu and vodka.

After 10 p.m. the bar will switch to a late-night menu that includes both the bar’s core cocktails and additional beverage options such as special shots and highball and soju sets. The space, previously intended to evoke the ideas of global trade with nautical decor, now features a large tree, street signs, murals, and custom wallpaper by Tokyo graphic designer Yusuke Yamazaki. “When you step into Polkcha, we want you to feel a slice of Seoul, Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh, or Shanghai,” Ryoo says of the design. “We worked very hard to try to capture that surreal illusion you get when getting lost in a street market, that the night — and fun — stretches on indefinitely.”

Polkcha debuts Friday, February 9 and will be open from 4 p.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. to midnight on Sunday.

Hardy Wilson
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