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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Natoma Cabana, Indoor-Outdoor Fun Downtown

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge The Antidote (rye, mezcal, honey and ginger) - PETE KANE
  • Pete Kane
  • The Antidote (rye, mezcal, honey and ginger)
“This menu was stolen from Natoma Cabana,” reads the cardboard cocktail list at the bar in Dennis Leary and Eric Pasetti’s latest project. It’s an indoor-outdoor haunt, fancifully outfitted with Adirondack chairs and subtropical plants, and strung with party lights.

Together with the exposed brick, scalloped skylights, and dormers, it all forms a smart conceit, but Natoma Cabana’s downtown location might make it a happy-hour kind of place, rather than the late-night venue it seems to want to be. (If you've ever been to the Delancey in New York's Lower East Side, they're almost uncannily alike.)

Theft-deterrent message aside, the menu is compact and slightly unusual. Fives beers on tap — including Ale Industries’ Uncle Jesse's West Coast Session Ale — and five wines-by-the-glass accompany six $12 cocktails, all of them summery in nature. If you’ve ever thirsted for some homemade fireballs, they’re here, but the Wednesday night crowd seemed a tad subdued for that. It’s too bad, too, since the laddish art direction is so flawless, right down to the neon sign propagandizing “LIQUOR.”

Natoma Cabana does have a couple of ultra-lounge accents, such as very loud music and, at the time of our visit, a Reserved sign taped to fun-looking seating nest that four people could conceivably shoehorn themselves into.

click to enlarge Natoma Cabana's exterior is almost punk. - PETE KANE
  • Pete Kane
  • Natoma Cabana's exterior is almost punk.

Although the exterior, a black-and-white mural with a green neon arrow, is striking, one thing that’s just a shame is the noirish dead-end location. Not that it’s a bust; rather, having almost no neighbors is an untapped boon (aside from the bass pulsing over the vast, crane-studded pit that’s to become part of the Transbay Terminal). Elsewhere in SOMA, the Stud’s dead-end rear alley provides a prime location for bad boys and girls to smoke, exchange numbers and get into trouble late at night. Would that Natoma Cabana’s somewhat buttoned-down clientele embraced the demimonde like that.

Natoma Cabana, 90 Natoma, 952-0481

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Pete Kane

Pete Kane

Pete Kane is a total gaylord who is trying to get to every national park before age 40

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