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Making the rounds of Fisherman's Wharf bars, you'll meet people from the Philippines, Bulgaria, or even Alameda

Wednesday, Jun 20 2001
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You meet all types at Fisherman's Wharf. Depending on whom you talk to, there's a good chance they'll be from out of town, and if they've migrated to the venerable Buena Vista, you can bet they'll be drinking Irish coffee. Fred the bartender estimates that he's mixed 3 million glasses of the BV's signature cocktail over the past 30 years, and judging by the 20 Irish coffee glasses standing ready along the bar, he may hit 4 million by July.

So what'll it be?

For Sunnyvale residents Eric and Debra, the choice is Irish coffee, while Charlie, from Alameda, sips coffee, Irish style. He's on his sixth -- "This is it. After dinner, six max" -- and is probably wise to cut himself off, because he soon claims his friend Steve is the mayor of Alameda. (For the record, the mayor of Alameda has a lot more hair and is named Ralph. Charlie is full of Irish coffee.)

Then there's Hans, from the Netherlands, who bucks the trend, sipping a rather exotic (at least in Holland) Miller Genuine Draft. His eyes sparkle with wanderlust following a motorcycle trip across the western U.S. He's visited Death Valley ("pretty hot") and Las Vegas ("stupid town"), and received a rude welcome upon entering San Francisco this evening. "We were on top of a hill before Golden Gate Bridge and the wind blew like hell. It's cold," he says. "The wind is cold. It's always?"

Ah, summer. The antidote to the chill would be (what else?) an Irish coffee, or perhaps a trip down the street to Fiddler's Green. Here, a young, sub- urban/international crowd is generating plenty of heat on the dance floor, while Estacia, another Alamedan, has somehow collected five pints of Guinness. "What brings me down is all the fine guys and fine girls, and I'd like to have sex with all of them," she says. Interesting, but can she name the mayor of her island city?

"I don't give a ...."

In other words, no.

Fiddler's Green is a good place to meet locally based foreigners. Sarah lives in San Francisco but is from the Philippines, and explains, "I had three beers and a shot of tequila -- yeah!" Arnad, from Bosnia, has been hanging out here for three years, and has noticed there are a lot of females on hand. "It depends on the time," he says. "Summer more, winter less. The womans, they like it more in summer." He's drinking a Long Island Iced Tea, and estimates that he can handle a total of five. "We can drink a lot," he says of his fellow countrymen. "We are like Russians."

Meanwhile, an Indian party is hitting full stride at Bad Abbot's across the street. Unfortunately, it's a private gig, so we return the following evening for what must surely be the city's only Bulgarian club night. The music sounds like a cross between wailing Hungarian music, punk rock, polka, and heavy metal. The dance floor is packed with Bulgarians, and at the bar, a tall, blond Bulgarian whose miniskirt would be a headband if it were hiked any higher doesn't speak much English. But Val does.

"I am certain that 90 percent of the people here are Bulgarians," he says. "It's Bulgarian music playing all night long." He's from Bulgaria, but won't discuss specifics. "I'm sure you never heard of the city," he says. "I am from Bulgaria. That is enough."

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Greg Hugunin

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