Buddy is your new favorite friendly neighborhood bar.
It opened last fall in the Mission’s old Californios on space on 22nd, from a team that has shaken and stirred its way through some of San Francisco’s finest cocktail spots: Nora Furst (Lolinda, Holy Water), Alvaro Rojas (ABV, Elda), Clair Sprouse (Rickhouse, the Hideout), and Nicolas Torres (True Laurel).
“We’re basically four friends who have lived and worked together in the Mission at various points,” says Rojas.
But don’t expect Manhattans and martinis at Buddy. Instead, the bar focuses on crafty low-ABV craft cocktails, natural wine, and small plates of food prepared by executive chef Sean Thomas (Blue Plate, wd~50).
Below is a rundown of five must-order food and drink items that are always on the menu in some form.
1. Mortadella Sammy
Growing up, Thomas was raised on both mortadella and fried bologna sandwiches. “We always had mortadella laying around,” says Thomas. “Once we opened Buddy and needed a sandwich, I naturally gravitated to the idea of this.”
The greasy-but-good sandwich features a thick slice of Olympia Provisions mortadella that’s pan-fried before placed in between a couple slices of Acme pan de mie that’s slathered with Dijon-naisse. It’s layered with chopped pickled cherry peppers and shredded escarole for bitterness. There are also a couple slices of melty housemade American cheese in the mix — a blend of Gruyere and both sharp and smoked cheddar. As the kids say, it’s pretty freakin good.
2. House Campari Soda
The House Campari soda is a nod to Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe in North Beach. “It was based on a conversation that Nicolas and I had,” says Rojas. “I always loved the flavor, and we wanted to recreate our version of it.”
At Mario’s, they use sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, angostura bitters, splash of soda, and a lemon peel.
At Buddy, they use Berto Rosso (a sweet Italian vermouth), Cappelletti (a classic red bitter similar to Campari but less sweet), Novasalus (an intensely bitter amaro that adds earthy and herbacouness to the mix), as well as a dash of orange bitters. It’s bittersweet.
3. Gilda Dip
“I fucking love Spain,” says Thomas. “I loved it before I went, and loved it more after.” He therefore set out to create a dip that’s an ode to the gilda, the most perfect pintxo: a trio of a salty anchovy, meaty olive, and sharp pickled piparra pepper.
The layered dip contains whipped cream fraiche, cream cheese, and citrus zest on the bottom, a hearty sweet and tangy layer of current jam, and a top gilda layer of chopped-up peppers, anchovies, and olives that’s covered in chives. Slather on to a garlic rubbed crostini and enjoy.
4. Roasted Trumpet Shrooms
The roasted king trumpet mushrooms have been on the menu since day one, and aren’t leaving anytime soon, according to Thomas. “It’s more challenging to come up with more interesting vegetable dishes that stand alone,” says Thomas. “We wanted a vegetarian dish that was hearty and delicious and approachable.”
Scored mushrooms are sautéed in a healthy amount of butter before finished in the oven. It’s then plated with French sheep’s milk feta, drizzled with a sweet and earthy truffle honey, and topped with a spicy crunchy walnut salsa macha.
5. Bitter Milk Punch
The clarified milk punch process adds citrus to milk, which is then allowed to sit in order to curdle and solidify, before it’s filtered, imparting the drink with a smooth texture and clear color.
At Buddy, they include a blend of vermouths to the mix — it’s never the same blend and is dependent on one other crucial component: a seasonal fruit syrup. Currently they’re using apricot, but they’ve submitted cherimoya before, and there could be pear or quince in the fall.
The result is a slightly sweet, slightly bitter, but totally balanced fruit-forward cocktail that pairs lovely with the fare.
Omar Mamoon is a San Francisco-based writer & cookie dough professional. Find him at @ommmar