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The Alembic

PHOTOS: Krescent Carasso

The Alembic sounds like it would be an old-school Irish bar that’s dark and dirty and has a framed poster of Matt Damon from his Good Will Hunting glory days in the bathroom. But despite the misleading name, the Alembic isn’t in fact an alcoholic Bostonian watering hole - it’s a cool San Francisco spot that serves outstanding cocktails and excellent, upscale American food.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a truly great bar is great drinks. The Alembic has them in spades, ranging from the traditional to the completely original, and they’re all exceptional. It’s worth a trip to the Haight alone just to drink here. While this is a good idea, an even better idea is to go, drink, then grab a booth, and get into the food.

Krescent Carasso

Some of the menu is fancified bar bites like a ham and cheese or wings, but most of the options are simple, fresh vegetables and meats that skew towards the adventurous, like duck hearts and bone marrow. Nothing is pretentious, but everything looks and tastes impressive. It’s a welcome surprise to be in a dark bar that feels like a place from the past, and then to suddenly be served next-level ricotta and bread from The Mill that transports you straight to the present and makes you feel like your future is very bright.

The space and menu recently got a big revamp, but the Alembic’s old-school vibe is very much in tact, with its dark, wooden floors and leather booths and ceiling fans. This place has been around for a decade, and feels like a real neighborhood institution: the music is loud, the throwback playlist rules, and the waitstaff actually seems happy to be there – we’ve seen them bopping around to ‘Love Shack’ while they work. All these details make the Alembic much more enjoyable than your typical bar serving food.

If you live in the Haight, you are lucky to have the Alembic as your local hang. And if you don’t, you should still get yourself there as soon as possible. There won’t be an owner named Paddy McShanedougal, but there will be strong, tasty drinks and superb food.

Food Rundown

House Ricotta

Whipped and light and delicious. It’s served with broccoli, and while veggies are good, the cheese is really why you’re ordering this. And you must order it. The Josey baker bread that it comes with is also a delight.

Jerk Spiced Duck Hearts

Be brave. It’s worth putting your fears aside and going all in on consuming animal organs. Rich and spicy, definitely not for the faint of heart, but definitely worth it.

Krescent Carasso
Lentil Croquettes

Get these for the vegetarian in your group while the carnivores attack the duck hearts. Nothing to blow your mind but quite tasty – especially with the yogurt sauce. Good, but not a must.

Krescent Carasso

If you tried to order asparagus at another bar, they might ask you to spell it to test your drunkenness before serving you a Fireball shot. Not here. Here, you get huge, fresh stalks of asparagus with excellent garnishes that change seasonally. In the spring it’s morels and fava beans, now it’s turnips. A strong greens option.

Bone Marrow

This is spectacular and only made better by the bread from the Mill to eat it on. Lots of garlic and capers take it from good to great. Obviously not light - get another cocktail and eat up.

Krescent Carasso

No longer on the menu, but putting it on here as an RIP/please bring it back plea. It was probably the best thing here: perfectly cooked, with a ridiculously good sauce. If you’re listening Alembic peoples, make us more steak please.

Krescent Carasso
Southern Exposure

We don’t usually call out cocktails, but the Alembic knows how to pour alcohol in a glass and mix it with some other stuff quite well. This one is our favorite because it makes drinking celery juice taste good. The secret is a lot of gin.

Krescent Carasso
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