A Little Hemlock Won't Kill You

The many businesses that line Polk street can only be described as varied and diverse. From restaurants to porn stores, Polk street's offerings cater to a wide spectrum of clientele. Polk street also has, of course, a plethora of places to grab a drink. Of the many bars that set up shop on Polk, The Hemlock Tavern has placed a pretty respectable bid in as one of the most original and interesting.

Named after the alleyway in which it's located, the Hemlock Tavern offers its patrons much more than simply drinks. The bar walks a fine line between dive diamond in the rough and niche bar. With the actual bar in the center of the area, and usually about 2 or 3 bartenders on hand, getting a drink is rarely a problem. And, in this city of overcrowded nightspots, that’s a Godsend. 

“I’ve been to bars up and down this street,” said Kara Galvan, 28. “I takes like a million years to get a drink and then when you have it, some dumb ass knocks it over before you can even get back to your friends. Why deal with that when you can come here?” 

Part of Hemlock Tavern’s appeal is its wide open space. There is an abundance of room around the bar for people, and an entire smoking room adjacent to it, ensuring no one has to brave whatever weather is happening outside.

“I’m a pretty big fan of being able to smoke without having to go outside,” says 23-year-old Michael Hought. “I don’t have to deal with anything outside. And when you’re on Polk street, that makes all the difference.”

While the bar alone would be enough to draw crowds in, Hemlock Tavern also features an adjoining venue where bands play. Most of the bands that grace the Hemlock’s stage are local talent, making the bar a great location to support San Francisco's ever-evolving scene. 

“The shows here are awesome,” says 22-year-old grad student Lisa Ng. “The cover’s cheap and you can always take a break at the bar if you don’t like the band or something. It’s not like other venues where you can’t escape.

The main basis of the Hemlock’s appeal, though, is its lack of pretentiousness. In a city where so many bars have nothing to show on their rosters but long waits, expensive drinks, overcrowding and bartenders with bad attitudes, patrons and night owls alike can safely discern that the Hemlock Tavern falls comfortably in the “none of the above” category.