For week 2, we visited McTeague’s Saloon in what is generally considered Nob Hill, but it could also be the Tenderloin, or Civic Center/Downtown—it’s sort of right in the middle of the 3 (or 4) neighborhoods.
I’ve often said that Pete’s, our destination last week, is the only place in San Francisco that I’d consider to be a genuine sports bar. McTeague’s didn’t disprove that theory, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy ourselves.
McTeague’s is sort of in a no-man’s-land of public transportation. We took the BART to the Civic Center stop, but that only gets you halfway there. Our options were then to take a 20-30 minute walk, ride a bus up Van Ness, or take a cab. Wanting to ensure that we arrived before kickoff at 10:00am, we opted for the latter option. (After football—and a full 5-6 hours of drinking—to get home, we didn’t mind walking back to the BART stop.)
While it was a little less than convenient to get to, especially for those of us coming from outside of the city, once we arrived in the neighborhood McTeague’s started to score points. On and around the same block of Polk Street are multiple other bars, small restaurants, and quaint little shops. The biggest disappointment from the surroundings came when we found that the crepes place across the street was closed.
Layout and Coverage
McTeague’s is not very well laid-out for NFL Sundays. As you walk in, on the left is the bar, with several modest-sized LCD TVs above it, and on the right are tables and chairs. In the rear is a separate back bar, with a couple more TVs—two fairly large ones in the corners and two small ones behind the bar—as well as a couple of tables in the middle. This is where we situated ourselves.
They do have Sunday Ticket, and make a token effort to have all of the games on. When we settled in the back area, the bartender took notice of our attire (most of us are Bears fans, but this week one of our party was a Cowboys fan) and put the Bears-Cowboys game on one of the larger screens for us. Being in the smaller back bar, we were only able to keep tabs on 3 other games besides the main one we were watching, but they did have other games on out in the main bar area.
There were a couple of problems with the game coverage. First, as the Bears game was the local Fox game of the week, it was blacked out on the Sunday Ticket channel. It took a few minutes to locate the bartender and get him to change the channel once the game had started. This seems like something the employees and the establishment should be more on top of. Then, during the first half, a guy came in who seemed like he owned the place and started changing the channels around. He eventually put our game on the other of the two large screens, but it was annoying nonetheless. I feel like if he had a strong preference on which games were on which screens, then he should be there prior to kickoff. Otherwise, don’t screw with the TVs while your customers are watching them.
Finally, at one point it seemed that the DirecTV feed went out, and all of their receivers reset themselves. This is something I’m all too familiar with, unfortunately; whether it was the bar’s fault or not I can’t say, but it resulted in 10 minutes of nothing to watch on any of the screens in the middle of the second half of the early games.
Part of the reason we chose to go to McTeague’s this week was because the Bears were playing the Cowboys, and this is sort of a Texas bar. We thought it’d be fun to go into enemy territory, as it were.
While there were a handful of Cowboys fans there, it was clear that this wasn’t a big place to watch Cowboys games, which we found disappointing. (McTeague’s is a University of Texas bar, it turns out—they have Longhorns signage all around, and apparently having Texas fans doesn’t necessarily translate into also having Cowboys fans.)
By the second quarter of the game, though, the crowd had filled in, and was a fairly rowdy bunch. Many people gathered in the back area where we were sitting, standing around to watch the games that were shown there. We had some fun back-and-forth with one particularly boisterous Cowboys fan, which was exactly what we were looking for. The poor layout of the bar in general made it difficult to get to the bathroom or to go outside during commercials, but the fun in this whole endeavor comes from sharing in the football-watching with strangers, and we did accomplish that.
Food and Drinks
The good thing about McTeague’s being a Texas bar is that they serve Lone Star beer. Not because the beer is any good, but because it’s $2 all day every day, which suited us quite well. Additionally, on NFL Sundays, they have Coors Light bottles for $2. Between the two, we were well-covered in terms of being able to drink beer all day without spending much money.
They also had some pretty cheap food specials. These, too, weren’t exactly what I’d call “good,” but for the money they were a good deal. $2 tacos is the special for football, so that’s what we went with. We also got a plate of nachos for the table. The best part of this meal was the nacho cheese sauce on the nachos: it was that kind of unholy glowing-yellow sauce that you normally find in a convenience store, except it was more creamy and thus even better. The tacos were serviceable; they were filled with a good amount of meat (most of us got pork, as they were out of steak), although there was no cheese on them, which I found disappointing.
The theme of the food and beverages seemed to be “low-class,” which fits with my mental stereotype of a Texas-style bar, but also fits well with my propensity to over-indulge. We definitely spent significantly less money than we did in week 1, and that’s a good thing.
The #1 reason McTeague’s was high on my list of places to visit is because it’s named after the seminal 1899 Frank Norris novel. Literary references always score big points in my book, regardless of where they show up. Fittingly, the bar had a gold tooth hanging out front, just as the title character’s Dental Parlors on Polk Street sports in the book. They also had a smaller gold tooth hanging inside, which I thought of as a fitting stand-in for a disco ball. Both teeth were sort of shitty-looking, as if the owner made and spray-painted them in his garage, but I still liked the touch.
The decoration gets a little weirder, though. Behind the bar, hanging from the ceiling, are hand-painted coffin lids of deceased musicians and other figures (such as Hunter S. Thompson). I took an admittedly blurry picture of the Rick James and Kurt Cobain coffin-tops, which you can see at left, but you can see a couple of better examples at Yelp (Cobain and Thompson, for instance). I didn’t get an explanation for these. They seem to be somebody’s art project, and the collection is pretty random, other than the fact that most of them are musicians (another one I recall was Janis Joplin).
While the bar itself was nice enough, and fairly clean, the bathrooms were dingy and not well-kept. They did have paper towels, at least. Like the rest of the bar, they weren’t very well laid-out, making for a couple of awkward moments. On the plus side, the restrooms were located in the back near the rear bar where we were seated, so we had easy access to them.
The best option when spending a whole day in a bar is to befriend the bartender, and while we were focused on the games and didn’t spend a lot of time chatting, we definitely got on the good side of ours. He commented multiple times on how we were his “best drinkers” that day, which I suppose is a complement. We’ve definitely found that our Midwestern enjoyment of excuses to drink during sunlight hours is not something you commonly find out here. While this means it’s harder to find people to join us in such endeavors, it does have the upside of making our antics seem a bit more impressive and unusual. So I guess we stand out. At any rate, during the later games, the bartender offered to buy us a shot, and poured them generously. I selected Jameson, and you could say that we enjoyed it.
We found McTeague’s to be a decent bar, although nothing special. For NFL-watching, it’s definitely not ideal, but we made do. When we arrived, they still had EPL games finishing up, and apparently it’s a good soccer bar in general. Our friends said that it’s a place they’ve enjoyed on many a Friday or Saturday night, but we found that for Sundays it’s not the best. Still, we had a good time, and I’m glad to have seen it.
Next week, as the Bears play on Monday Night Football, we’re going to do something a little different. We’ll take Sunday off, and I’ll actually try to get my money’s worth out of the Sunday Ticket package.
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