Mission Dolores: A Big, Beautiful Bar

05/12/2010 3:30 AM |

Mission Dolores, 249 Fourth Ave, Park Slope

Rating: 4 out of 5 L’s

Like its namesake, the oldest intact building in San Francisco, Mission Dolores looks like it’s going to be around for a real long time. The concrete-floored space unfolds from the Fourth Avenue sidewalk, starting with a breezy front room lined with small, sturdy tables made from thick, rough-hewn slabs of wood. They look just like the tables at Bar Great Harry, MD’s big brother bar on Smith Street, but there are a lot more of them here. The next section is ceiling-free, which accounts for the wind in the entryway. There’s more seating there, and even more as you walk under a glass roof and past a few pinball machines and a jukebox on your way to the bar.

Twenty-one drafts are listed on a chalkboard on the back wall, and a bartender with a big smile and a lot of tattoos fields questions about less familiar brews—say, Double Trouble, an imperial IPA from Michigan’s Founders Brewing, or Ithaca’s CascaZilla, a hoppy red ale—by passing a detailed and descriptive beer menu across the bar.

Around the corner, there are a couple of bathrooms—and often a line of people waiting for them. Perhaps the bathrooms are the only drawback here. There aren’t enough for a heavy-imbibing clientele and at least one of the toilets is awfully tall. When the seat is too high to squat over, and a little lady finds herself perched on a bar toilet with her feet dangling an inch off the ground, she may begin to reevaluate all the choices that have led her to this sad moment in her life. This is only gonna hold up the line.

But hey, Mission Dolores isn’t necessarily geared toward women. Though it utilizes half the old Cattyshack, which was the most spacious lesbian bar in town (the other half will soon become the Rock Shop, a rumored Bowery Presents music venue), it quickly made the transition from Sapphic dance club to dude paradise. With its vista of industrial Fourth Avenue, and without much in the way of decorations (save a string of Christmas lights and some craft brewery paraphernalia), the space is tough enough to make straight men feel comfortable about taking each other on dates here. It’s a Bromance Safe Zone where you can get all emo about the piney aroma, full body, and lingering bitterness of either a lost love or that 12-ouncer of He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. cask ale in your hand. And it’s big enough that you can drag in a whole slew of dudes—and you can bring your dogs, too.