WHERE DON'T THE geeks drink? The greatest challenge in the city is to find a bar in the midst of the all-pervasive "industry" that's not riddled with geek drones from 5 p.m. onward. But, similar to the shakedown of the Miss America pageant and its epic struggle to find the most beautiful out of a pool of equally equipped specimens, our quest was not to merely find qualifying bars with geeks in them but to locate the geekiest geek bars to ever serve geektails.
Bars were rated on: poise; atmosphere; location (downtown, SoMa, or NoMa); the number of after-work conversations overheard; the number of obvious office cliques spotted drinking; the level of short, coiffed dos, pale complexions, and black coats; and the presence and variety of electronic devices and their length of use. Cost was a nonissue, as most in this crowd can easily afford the $4.50 Anchor. Luckily, a bathing suit competition was not required.
The Industry Standard's rooftop Most Fridays, 5-9 p.m. or so, 315 Pacific, S.F. Invitation required unless you're really, really crafty. As if the Standard's staff were not a geekfest unto themselves, each time an issue goes to bed they peel themselves away from their computers and venture up a flight of stairs to the roof for celebration. Only the industry elite are invited to their lair to drink, and at times the line has wound out the lobby and onto Pacific for those hoping, Studio 54-style, to be geeky enough to enter. Talk saved for the water cooler transfers to the beer cooler come 5 p.m., and the staff really hooch it up, talking shop all night long. Present and accounted for are venture capitalists, market analysts, public relations associates, senior vice presidents, and others with at least five syllables to their title who make the Web world go round. No one ever gets too drunk or has too good a time (after all, it's still an office party), and like most parties, geek or not, everything's over when the liquor well and bottled beer run dry.
Gordon Biersch Sun.-Mon., 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 11:30-midnight; Fri.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m., 2 Harrison, S.F. (415) 243-8246. The bearded guys from Marketing are "stoked" that the sports page is framed in front of the urinals, and what they will never know is that every toilet seat in the ladies room is wet with the bad aim of the tipsy girls from P.R. whose mothers told them never to sit in public bathrooms. Yes, it's that kind of geek bar, the kind that attracts people who actually care that there's a stunning view of the Bay Bridge. This 30-plus crowd, clad mostly in new Gap or whatever Nordstrom deems fashionable, have been in the administrative leg of high-tech for only a couple years, but their careers have been in full swing for almost a decade. Those big, 22-ounce glasses of house brew are the real draw, especially when the ThirstyBear is just too far a walk. If necessary, and it usually is, there is plenty of adequate pub food to soak up the liquor just in time for that long and sobering drive back to the East Bay or Marin.
Elroy's Mon.-Tues., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Wed., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 6-10 p.m.; Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 6-11 p.m.; Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.-midnight; Sat., 6 p.m.-midnight; Sun., 6-10 p.m., 300 Beale, S.F. (415) 882-7989. This is a great spot for when the whole geeky lot at your office heads out for a drink to celebrate a birthday, merger, or IPO. All are welcome, and all types will be found, including the pink-haired designer balancing a spoon on her nose, the wallflower receptionist tucked into a corner, your boss's boss screaming to be heard over the crowd on a cell phone, frat boys on the prowl, and the guy from somewhere in Finland who does something so technical, and has such an accent, that you can't even understand it. There's ample space for large crowds and a festive atmosphere, and the Dr. Seuss-inspired decor upstairs is fun and frivolous, if you can stand the heat and humidity when it's packed wall to wall. Bars on both floors are jumping after work, especially on Fridays, but the restaurant off to the side is a quiet, calm haven for those too geeky to talk to other people.
111 Minna 111 Minna, S.F. (415) 974-1719. Call for hours. So hip, so cool, SoMa. Maybe it's the intrigue of escaping downtown down a dark alley, or maybe it's the super-cute dreadlocks on the door guy, but this is the most heartthrob, pinup crowd south of Market, and every designer, graphics production artist, animator, and Flash programmer is here for a drink before the bike ride home to the Mission. In the after-work hour, whether that's 5 or 8, there's no cover charge, and the DJ is spinning kitsch beats and remixes, from New Order to drum 'n' bass. Only the colorful crowd and these kaleidoscopic sounds could rival the eclectic, erratic, esoteric art that hangs out on the wall. The kids in attendance work for MP3 start-ups or other such places where wearing a tie could get you fired. Once the geeks who got beat up in high school, they now wave their geek flag high with like-minded funky fellows and are rewarded handsomely for their efforts. No one would suspect that despite their thrift-store clothes, many of them make 80 grand or more a year.
Platform Independent Mixers Shifting location and date, held once a month. For more information, go to www.sfwow.org/pims.html. What? You've never been to a PIM? Clearly you're not reading all your interoffice e-mail. Everygeek who's anygeek knows that these monthly extravaganzas are all about networking, flirting, and walking out the door with a stack of business cards sufficient for a game of geek poker. Sponsored by local nonprofit San Francisco Women on the Web (www.sfwow.org), this traveling event started at the ThirstyBear and was until recently housed at the smoker-friendly 850 Montgomery, but at more than 500 industry geeks strong, these old shells have been stretched to capacity. Rumor has it that the next event will be at Jillian's in the Metreon, another industry mecca, and if you attend, here's what you'll find: hungry start-up-seeking engineers without paying recruiters, recruiters looking to sell talent to start-ups, job switchers, date seekers, those looking to switch dates and jobs, dazed antisocialites who came looking for a job or a date or both but who end up glued to a barstool, the recently relocated, and industry tangentials looking to market themselves to this target of tech heads, such as lawyers, massage therapists, and temp agencies. You can pretend you're here just to have a good time, but this brand of socializing takes work.
Infusion Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sat.,-Sun., 5 p.m.-2 a.m., 555 Second St., S.F. (415) 543-2282. Oddly enough, there's not a single bar in South Park, but this trendy geek trap collects everyone from the nearby HQs of the Webby Awards, boutique Web design firms and print shops, and agencies of architecture. Infusion is a natural lure for the design-
minded, with its vaulted ceilings, sleek lines around the bar and dining tables, and trim natural wood throughout. And its much-acclaimed house-made vodkas and well-rounded menu are the reason you can't see an inch of floor space in here on a weekend night. But any day of the week after work, all the black turtlenecks, good haircuts, and sculpted, Teutonic cheekbones make the place spin like art-house celluloid, or reel like that bad German expressionist character from Saturday Night Live. Is this a European modeling agency or a bar/restaurant? Tough to tell, but if you get bored, you can eavesdrop on conversation and try to determine whose accent is phony. Radiation-wave and satellite-communication conspirators take note: of the dozen or so tables of two or more sitting together, almost half were conversing only with those on the other end of a cell phone.
Cafe Mars Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m, 798 Brannan, S.F. (415) 621-MARS. We're not joking: on a recent Wednesday-night visit, there were no less than three laptops up and running, their operators downing a pint next to a mound of paperwork spread out over tables and the bar. Mars is nestled in the bosom of SoMa; thus it is the office when the office closes. It consistently attracts a good industry crowd, some whom even rent out the back porch for private parties. Though the place looks cocktails, it's almost all beer, and despite its glitter-covered booths and stylish hanging lamps, it is without pretension or expectation. This could be a date place, but it's so unintimidating that even the programmers who get off work at 9 will stop in for a little late-night Q&A and some cheese fries. Other than plenty of electrical outlets, geek magnets include a pool table, a smoking patio, and cheap-enough greasy pub grub.
PHOTO: DAVID GREGORY