Insider Interview: Doug Dalton, San Francisco’s Hottest Bar-chitecht

By: Katie Manning

January 11, 2013


Doug Dalton, former Netscape engineer, now the ‘bar-chitect’ behind Bourbon & Branch, Rickhouse and more, has done nothing less than revolutionise the cocktail bar culture in San Francisco. As well as owning five bars in the city, he is the co-founder of Future Bars, a consultancy company that offers expertise in bar design, development, operation, entertainment and marketing to hotels. Some of its clients include The Ritz Carlton and The W San Francisco. If that wasn’t enough, we’ve heard rumour Dalton hangs out with the young rock star entrepreneurs behind Instagram and Digg, as well as a few actual rock stars too”¦ We can’t think of anyone better to chat to about the San Francisco nightlife, can you?

What are some of your favourite new spots in the city?

Chambers, at the Phoenix Hotel: rock and roll history, refined. It’s low key and the bar food is on another level. The Bar Agricole‘s interior and cocktail programme are outstanding – also, the bar is open until it’s empty. And finally, 620 Jones – for the killer outdoor space near Union Square, perfect to spend the night under the stars, or more – usually the blankets and heaters.

620 Jones | San Francisco
620 Jones, San Francisco © 620 Jones

What about classics – places with history and old-school San Francisco character?

The Warfield Theatre, where a basement speakeasy and Al Capone’s office once were – it’s been a San Francisco institution for 86 years. And the House of Shields – it’s over 100 years old and still very cool. There’s a tradition there of having no clock on the premises, or a TV.

House of Shields | San Francisco
House of Shields, San Francisco © House of Shields

San Francisco loves the bizarre. What’s the weirdest, coolest event in this city?

The Lost Horizon Night Market, where box trucks are transformed into restaurants, bars and odd stores. It’s all very secretive and exciting. Or the Survival Research Lab‘s shows. Giant fire-breathing robots! I don’t think you can get much weirder!

Rye | San Francisco
Rye, San Francisco © Rye

You have a several friends in town: A) Just-retired bon vivants, B) A frisky 25 year-old and C) ultra-hip 30-something parents with kids in tow. Where would you send each of them fora good time?

Bon vivants: Rye – a great cocktail bar and cool downtown scene. For the frisky 25 year-old: Rickshaw Stop for Popscene on Thursdays. Great scene and music. Hip 30-somethings with kids: Prospect  – for the incredible food, cocktails and atmosphere.

Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco
Rickshaw Stop © Rickshaw Stop

Katie Manning

Katie is an author for the Virgin Atlantic blog. Despite her urban London residency, Katie can often be found exploring far-flung corners of the globe in search of exciting new experiences and stories. A self-confessed night-owl, she makes it her mission to search out the best cocktail bars and live music venues on each and every expedition. Follow Katie @kt_saramanning

Categories: Our Places