I wish I were a San Franciscan who could say that I went to Big Foot Lodge when it opened in 1996, when Polk Street still smelled like urine. But back in ’96, I was still listening to the Spice Girls on my way to soccer practice. I wish I had had more time to make memories there. But this Saturday, Big Foot will be closing its doors for good, a thought so heartbreaking it deserves a love letter.
The Big Foot Lounge was the rare bar in this city that had a delightfully kitschy character, with its wood log paneling, taxidermied animals, and antler chandeliers. And who could forget the towering, etched-wood Sasquatch adorned with a sign asking you not to climb on it because it is was actually foam made to look like wood? Where else in this city can you find both honesty and cheap parlor tricks, all rolled into one? And the service! It's never hard to find a bartender with short patience in San Francisco, but the Big Foot Lodge staff went above and beyond. I once came with a large group (maybe twelve of us), and we all ordered the same drink. A ridiculous request? Yes. And true to form the bartender made about three of the drinks, then refused to make any more. He told us that next time we should call ahead and warn them we were coming.
Their specialty drinks will be sorely missed. My favorite was the Girl Scout Cookie, a sickeningly sweet cocktail that vaguely tastes like a Thin Mint. The other specialty is not so dainty. When you ask for the Sasquatch, the bartender nods, then pours a lot of Wild Turkey into a glass along with a few other mixers (but it’s mostly Wild Turkey). One was enough to turn a 6-foot, 180-pound man into a sloppy, swaying lumberjack.
I went to say my goodbyes last night and was yet again surprised by this little hole in the wall. I had no idea, but the bar has karaoke. Karaoke! And this isn’t your typical Wreck Room–style set with random, slightly depressing folks singing songs you’ve never heard of. Every song requested was a stone cold classic: “Bohemian Raphosdy,” “Land Down Under,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “Jesse’s Girl.” There was no stage on which to shame yourself, but instead four microphones being passed amongst the crowd with strangers belting songs into each other’s faces and rocking out on air guitars.
This, in a nutshell, is what I always loved about Big Foot. It was a guaranteed good time. No souped up cocktails, no mustached bartenders, no pretentions. Just a place to enjoy the company of friends in a cozy corner or to make new ones while passing the mic. So, thank you Big Foot Lodge. You will be missed.
Big Foot Lodge’s last call is this Saturday, July 13.
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