We all know there are plenty of bars and restaurants on Fillmore Street, along with a recent explosion of trendy coffee shops and ice creameries. But experienced bar experts Zack Schwab and Shane Matthews thought the popular Pacific Heights street was lacking something: a cross between a high-quality bar and restaurant and a relaxed and cozy neighborhood tavern.
So Schwab and Matthews, who worked together at some of the country’s finest bars, including The Jeffrey in New York City and Monk’s Kettle in the city, opened The Snug, an inviting neighborhood spot offering simple yet tasty bar bites, small plates and a couple of entrées, creative cocktails, a vast rotating selection of beers and ciders on tap, and a smaller selection of wine on tap. Along with two other managing partners, Brian Shin (Benu and In Situ) and Jacob Racusin (Alembic), Schwab and Matthews opened The Snug late last November.
WHY THE SNUG?
“A snug is a small private room within a public house, once common in pubs across Great Britain and Ireland,” according to Wikipedia. Matthews, who hails from Ireland, says, “There are cozy corners — snugs — in the pubs in Dublin where the regulars come in; they’re very convivial, and we wanted to create that kind of place here, where you know you’re always welcome whether you’re popping in for a pint or looking for a great meal and meeting up with old and new friends.”
The ambiance at The Snug is anything but dark and intimate. Rather, it’s a large, bright restaurant with a long wood bar, high ceilings, small tables, and a private dining room upstairs. But there are also some small nooks for more privacy. The space was designed by Brill Hull of Tide Design Co. The 31-foot Douglas fir bar top was built using reclaimed wood from the Mare Island Naval Shipyard.
BEER AND MORE BEER AND COCKTAILS, TOO
Schwab and Matthews hope customers will take note of The Snug’s cider and beers from 14 taps, its cask engine serving real ale, and its ample selection of bottled beers, which includes sours, stouts, and strong ales (most priced around $8 a glass). Draft beers skew toward top local craft breweries.
Quirky cocktail concoctions featuring house ingredients are a big draw, including the Yellow Rose with sunflower-infused vodka, bee pollen, lemon, honeycomb, and lavender, which is both a lemonade yellow in color and less sweet than it sounds ($13); the Prickly Pear with mezcal, amaro (bitters), nopales (Mexican cactus), prickly pear, habanero, and lime ($14); and an old fashioned with bourbon, bitters, and sugar ($12). “Every cocktail on our menu will have at least one element that’s made in-house,” says Racusin, the bar manager. “We want to highlight classic cocktails people know and love but put our own unique spin on them. But if you just want a beer and a shot, you’ll still feel right at home.”
NOSHES AND MORE
The Snug’s simple menu was developed by Shin, who has managed to infuse some old favorites with a modern twist. Bar snacks include light, nongreasy corn fritters and Tator Tots served with horseradish sour cream with bacon and chives (both $6) and house-made dill pickles ($3). Small plates have an Asian influence: there are Korean fried chicken wings with garlic, soy, and ginger ($10); a tasty charred little gem lettuce salad with broccoli, radish, pistachio, and radicchio ($9); and a sesame naan with shitake hummus ($9).
Shin has taken advantage of the tandoori oven inherited from the previous tenant, Mehfil Indian Cuisine, and prepares just three large plates: a trotter hotdog with perilla mustard, ham hock “ketchup” and shiso relish ($11; perilla and shiso are flavorful green herbs from the mint family); a toothsome bodega burger fashioned from chopped beef served with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and special sauce ($10); and a cobb salad with tandoori chicken and house ham ($16).
Judging from the lively crowd of patrons of all ages enjoying the cheerful vibe at The Snug on a chilly Wednesday evening, the bar has already become a go-to spot on Fillmore. “We’ve been almost overwhelmed since opening,” says Schwab. “We didn’t anticipate the volume, but the city and the neighborhood have embraced us. On the weekends, we’re already seeing a loyal local customer base.”
The Snug offers night owls a cozy place for a late-night drink and a snack (see hours below), and plans to add brunch and outdoor seating are in the works.
The Snug: 2301 Fillmore (at Clay) 415-562-5092; thesnugsf.com; Sunday–Thursday 4 p.m.–midnight, Friday–Saturday 4 p.m.–2 a.m.