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Tender Is the Night

A five-stop crawl of the Tenderloin’s newest spots for eating, drinking, and soaking.


The soaking pool at Onsen.

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Falafel at the Halal Guys.

Photo: Courtesy of the Halal Guys

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Photo: Courtesy of Biig

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The bar at Rum & Sugar.

Photo: Masha Melnik

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The burger at the Saratoga.

Photo: Ed Anderson

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Saturday night in the Tenderloin: It isn’t quite what it used to be. While the incursion of restaurants and bars into the neighborhood is nothing new, the past few months have brought an influx of particularly notable newcomers that more or less demand an extended crawl (or, in the case of Onsen, a Japanese bathhouse and tearoom, a lengthy soak). All you need is a free Saturday and some willing—and thirsty—company. 

5:30 P.M.

Opened last November, the serene bathhouse is the ideal place to prepare yourself for a night of excess. Just make sure you bring your bathing suit (along with the $30 entrance fee)—since you’re visiting on a Saturday, the communal bathing area is coed and clothing is required. Start in the sauna or steam room and give yourself at least a good 15 to 20 minutes to sweat out the week’s worries (or your residual Friday-night hangover). Then dip into the pool, which is set to a perfect 104 degrees. Finally, grab a cup of complimentary tea and sit for a spell: Think of this as the calm before the storm. 466 Eddy St. (near Hyde St.), 415-441-4987

7 P.M.

The Halal Guys
Make your way to the recently opened outpost of the New York street food stalwart. Given that it’s Saturday, be prepared for a line (fret not, it moves fast). Order the $11.99 platter: chicken, beef gyro, or falafel (the gyro-and-chicken combo is also a winner) served with rice, pita, lettuce, and tomatoes. Douse it with the Halal Guys’ famous white and spicy red sauces, but be warned: The latter packs some heat. 340 O’Farrell St. (near Taylor St.), 415-549-3454

8 P.M.

It’s now time for a drink. Head down Taylor Street to Biig, a four-month-old bar whose stated mission is “To Take Care of You in a Big Way.” Translation: There’s no menu, so a bartender will talk to you about your preferences and then concoct a cocktail to suit your personal tastes. If you’re still haunted by the ghost of the Halal Guys, you may opt for a digestif; if so, ask for something with fernet. You may get a “Fernet and Stormy,” a take on the classic dark and stormy in which fernet plays the part of rum and is muddled and mixed with lime and ginger beer. It’s a drink all but guaranteed to keep the evening going. 98 Turk St. (at Taylor St.)

9:30 P.M.

Rum & Sugar Bar SF
Make your way a few blocks northeast to another new and conveniently located bar. Opened in January, Rum & Sugar focuses on—you guessed it—rum cocktails. You could go with the namesake Rum & Sugar, made with Mount Gay XO rum, caramelized demerara sugar, bitters, and a flamed orange peel, or perhaps a Rumrunner’s Old-Fashioned made with Real McCoy rum instead of rye. But don’t let the bar’s name dictate your spirit, should you prefer beer or wine: Those are in abundance, too. This is, after all, a bar—and, with its copper accents and spherical chandeliers, it’s a beautiful one. 823 Geary St. (near Hyde St.), 415-913-7949

11:30 P.M.

The Saratoga
Now that the Halal Guys is a hazy memory, the only thing left to do is eat some more. So head to the Saratoga, a sleek new spot that opened in November. You’d be remiss not to order the sublime Toga Tots, which are topped with shredded cheddar and crumbled chorizo. Ditto the burger, which comes with slaw, pickles, melted taleggio, and two salty patties stacked between a soft bun. And while you’re at it, finish with an elevated riff on a Hostess Ho Ho, here a frosted chocolate roulade with whipped cream. You won’t regret it. 1000 Larkin St. (at Post St.), 415-932-6464

Originally published in the March issue of
San Francisco 

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