A recent post on Gridskipper inspired us to relate a birthday outing on which we were taken a few years ago. The theme was “The Mile-High Club,” or something like that. We were taken around to bars at the tops of hotels, drinking a cocktail at each and having too much at that. It was a great night out, probably the best birthday outing ever. Our friend Mike Burton, a local hotel concierge, limo driver and cocktail expert, came up with the idea and organized the outing, God bless him.
Drinks were pretty expensive, in the $10-$15 range at each of these places, but for a special occasion, one or all stops would do perfectly. Here’s the itinerary as we remember it:
1. The View Lounge, Mariott Hotel: This was our first stop and staging ground. It was still daylight when we met here, and because of the South-of-Market location, you could see the Bay Bridge perfectly, along with lots of freight and tanker ships and the City of Oakland. It was raining and the clouds looked very nice.
2. The Onyx Lobby Lounge at the Westin St. Francis: We know this isn’t a top-floor bar, but we got a little confused. Our heroic organizer warned us that there was no bar at the top of the St. Francis, but we insisted there was. So on our way to the next stop, we persueded the party to check. No luck, but we sat in the Onyx for a round, anyway, and listened to the piano player. Pretty good.
3. Harry Denton’s Starlight Room: This is the destination around Union Square for drinking and dancing way up in the sky. While the view was partially obscured by another nearby hotel, it regained favor because of the precipitous dance-floor, which goes right up to the glass in the big picture window. You can cut a rug inches from the drop-off.
4. Top of the Mark: This bar is very important to us. Our grandmother used to come dancing here in the 40s during the war. We celebrated our 21st birthday here with her and mourned her passing here. It is one of the classiest spots in the whole city and, perched at the top of Nob Hill, has one of the best views. Soldiers and sailors would drink here during the war, and their wives and girlfriends, including our grandmother, would watch their significant others pass under the Golden Gate Bridge from the “Weepers’ Corner” in the northwest part of the room. This place is expensive and sometimes charges a cover, but it is worth it.
5. The Equinox at the Hyatt Regency: Well, the restaurant/bar at the top of the Embarcadero Hyatt is now closed, apparently. This is too bad. The finale of our outing, we were lucky enough to experience a lightning storm over the bay as we sat in the circular, glass room. We will remember it fondly.
These are not, by any means, all of the bars in San Francisco boasting million-dollar views. The Carnelian Room at the Bank of America building and the Cityscape Restaurant atop the Hilton both overlook The City from downtown, and of course the Cliff House commands a view of the Pacific. But for one night, we feel we took a good sampling of some of the best downtown had to offer, and after five Manhattans, we know it took the best from us, as well.