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Side Dish 

Stick a Cork in It, Buzzed, The Breakfast Club, and Late Night

Wednesday, Nov 24 1999
Stick a Cork in It
One issue I haven't seen addressed in the recent slew of articles on the wine side of the business is the corkage fee. Not a night goes by that I don't observe at least one party of diners entering a restaurant with a bottle of wine. This isn't necessarily a slight to the restaurant or its wine list -- it's just that many of San Francisco's savvy diners have their own collection of bottles they like to drink.

Florio manager Matt Berson says, "Not only do customers bring in wines from their own cellars, but often from their own vineyards." You can't argue with that, and restaurateurs don't -- they simply tack on corkage. The charge seems fair to me. The restaurant is losing income when you bring your own bottle, yet it still has to give you full wine service, glassware, and so on. A nice thing to do, which will often result in a waived corkage fee, is to buy a bottle when you bring one. Try purchasing a nice white off of the list before digging into your vintage zin with the entrees; another way to avoid staff stigma is by offering your waiter or the manager a taste from your prized bottle. And don't bring a wine that's already featured on the restaurant's list. That's a no-no.

Here's a sample of corkage charges around town:

Florio, Mecca, Absinthe: $12.

Farallon, One Market, LuLu: $15.

Jardiniere, Fifth Floor: $25.

I used to drive down Guerrero past the rusty wrought-iron window bars of the 500 Club and its broke-down neon proclaiming "Open at 6am" and wonder what kind of sleazebags would frequent such a place. A few years later, while apartment hunting in the 'hood, I wandered in for a much-deserved Bloody Mary (or two) and left with a very different impression of the old watering hole. Basically a neighborhood bar with a good juke and available space at the pool tables, the 500 has undergone a flurry of improvements over the past year, including -- thank you Jesus -- new carpet. The new bar manager has attracted a hipper clientele without losing the original flavor of the place. Last week was the 500's 50th anniversary, and the throngs were pulled to the light of not just one but two neon martinis that crown the bar entrance. And the "6am" sign is about to go back into use, because the 500 is once again open early on weekends -- for all those in danger of losing last night's buzz.

The Breakfast Club
Pauli's on Washington in the upper Fillmore has reopened after a quiet closing less than a month ago. Turns out it was just time for a quick coat of paint on the old boy. The tried-and-true breakfast spot will now be open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.

Late Night
I don't think it has anything to do with the proximity of the beautified Copper Penny, aka JohnFrank, just across the street, but the Transfer is getting a new color scheme. The gay bar with the pot club on top has been striped like a Muni bus for as long as I can remember, but now isn't a good time to be associated with the beleaguered transportation department. How about SamTrans blue and red -- or a nice BART gray?

Know something Harry doesn't? E-mail and sweep the dirt out from under the rug.

About The Author

Harry Coverte

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