Zeitgeist :: San Francisco

No photos please!  The outside world just won’t understand…

From their website:

21 and over, Have Your I.D. ready
No Pets Please, No BS either!

One Man’s Experience

I am lucky enough to experience this most unique of beer gardens twice during my stay in San Francisco.  Upon my first visit, I don’t really know what to expect.  Zeitgeist has a “reputation”.  But, what that reputation is, I haven’t been able to really grasp.  I heard tell of an extremely lax atmosphere that lends itself to an anything-goes vibe once you are past the single black door entrance.  I don’t know if I should expect a quiet blissful garden with a waterfall or a grungy den of debauchery.  In a town where it is not only acceptable but unbelievably common to see someone light up a joint in the middle of the day on a busy sidewalk, I think it may be a little bit of both.

We finally make it to the front door after asking a random passer-by, “Do you know where Zeitgeist is?”  He knows immediately what we are talking about and points us down the hill with a smile.  The building is red and black and I can see tall trees in the back.

I feel like there may be a secret knock that is needed to gain entrance, but we proceed with a fake confidence through the black door with the skull playboy bunny logo stenciled on it anyway.  Inside, the walls are black, and there are tons of awesomely strange flyers, stickers and items on the walls.  Over the bar, huge blackboards present the beer menu and proclaim “Cash Only” and I know this place has a certain rebellious personality.

To the far right there is a room with a window where you can order food.  We go to grab a brat.  There is a decent line for ordering, but it is moving somewhat consistently.  When we finally get to the front, the man behind the counter that has been hustling like a worker bee, just looks at us as he holds a clipboard.  We hesitate for the slightest second because we don’t know if he is ready to take our order or not.  He takes a beat and says “Too slow” puts down his clipboard then goes about taking care of some buns from the oven and replacing plates and things behind the counter.  We are a little stunned, we just failed at ordering!  I totally appreciate this rejection though!  It makes me feel like I am back in Atlanta at the Varsity getting an impatient “Whatll ya have!” that only Atlanta folk really know what they are in store for.  After he takes care of his kitchen for a few minutes, he comes back to us for a second chance.  We order quickly and he tells us to return in 15 minutes to get our orders.

At the bar, we order up some local brews from the big selection of beers on tap.  This is actually the first time that I am truly impressed with the bartender’s customer and beer management skills.  Although there are many customers, they are all very good at taking multiple orders, taking money and making all the people feel like they are being helped.  We meander outside clinging to our full glasses, avoiding bikes and stray elbows.

We go outside and it is a great sea of young folk with some middle aged couples sprinkled about.  There are tattoos and hipster sunglasses galore.  I can’t believe we even found a spot at a table.  Immediately, the people at our table begin to chat with us about this and that.  I can feel the love.  A truly open and friendly quality is in the air.  I take a few pictures, then I see something posted up on the wall.

That may be difficult to see, but I soon notice that they are everywhere.  They are “No Photos or Videos” signs.  At first I wonder “Why?”  Then I get a whiff of an answer.  Zeitgeist’s lax vibe comes with a privacy that can’t be found many places that are open to the public.  People are comfortable to drink and recreate as they please so long as, as they say, there’s no “BS”.

So, I stopped taking pictures, happy to oblige the request so that I could enjoy this unique beer garden in its’ essence.

We enjoyed our evening there among strangers and then my dear old friend from Florida showed up and we whisked away into the San Francisco bar scene in Lower Haight.  Later in the week I would return to Zeitgeist again, this time, totally “in the know” and I will certainly go back again next time I make it to the City By the Bay.

One Response to “Zeitgeist :: San Francisco”
  1. shawn b. says:

    good place for a beer – i went there last summer. it is an experience for sure!

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