With all the Irish bars and general nothingness dotting the nether-region where South of Market transitions into the Financial District, it's nice to see the corner of Mission and Second Streets get a respectable after-work watering hole. Archive Bar & Kitchen, a gastropub and wine bar, may have a masculine atmosphere, but it's no bros-only club.
Wine only comes by the glass, so you know this is meant to be a lunch-and-happy-hour destination (and it is in fact closed on weekends). The list of House Libations may be printed in tiny type on the menu, but Archive pulled off a rather ingenious trick with them. While waiting for a full liquor license, all seven cocktails consist exclusively of vermouths, liqueurs, beer, and wine. Made with Maurin Quina liqueur, the Alternative Medicine is the closest approximation to a Manhattan that can be made without bourbon, step one of which is "Ancient Greatness," i.e. torching cubes of bourbon-barrel to smoke the glass.
The kitchen half of "Bar & Kitchen" is slim pickings just yet, with only a few $10 boards (cheese and charcuterie) alongside a few $12 thin-crust pizzas, although the Get Squashed (Gospel Flat butternut squash, piquillo peppers, goat cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds, arugula, mozzarella and orgnic tomato sauce) sounds decadent enough to test the tensile strength of the crust. Once they conquer the defunct bagel store adjacent, things will really get moving.
Warm, dark and classic, Archive's turn-of-the-last-century interior feels like 826 Valencia if you swapped out the pirate tchotchkes for tufted leather. The music felt a bit incongruent, though. A watered-down, retail-techno beat thumped on for over fifteen minutes, more ultra-lounge than gentleman's club or wine bar. But even at half the projected size and scale, Archive is a great place to round up your co-workers and talk smack about your boss over a glass of wine.
Archive Bar & Kitchen, 602 Mission St., (415) 987-5770.