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$13 martini sparks existential crisis

By Greg Zeman
The Guardsman

Greg Zeman receives a $13 Martini at the Top of the Mark restaurant in San Francisco on April 6. RAMSEY EL-QARE / THE GUARDSMAN
Greg Zeman receives a $13 Martini at the Top of the Mark restaurant in San Francisco on April 6. RAMSEY EL-QARE / THE GUARDSMAN

Checkout time
In the immortal words of James Ingram, “I tried my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough.”

What started as a dream of turning City College students on to affordable entertainment opportunities has morphed into a nightmare hit-parade of $50-a-plate champagne brunches, pointless elevator rides and destinations outside city limits.

When I look at my creation, I no longer see my beautiful baby but instead a hideous Frankenstein monster which must be reformed or destroyed.

It all started with four little words.

“Make it about hotels.”
It seemed like a good idea, until the smoke cleared and my Pell Grant money had run out. Then it seemed like a silly idea – one rooted in the naive assumption that City College students have the money or desire to hang out in hotels.

I’ve been known to party too hard and end up in a hotel the next morning, but it’s usually the kind of place that comes with a small bar of soap – if I’m lucky – and an ashtray that doubles as a clock radio.

What happened?
I was sitting at the Top of the Mark – a crummy, over-priced tourist trap that feels stuffy, even with panoramic windows on the 19th floor – stingily sipping a $13 martini and utterly loathing myself for buying it.

Maybe it was the literal penthouse lounge that broke the figurative camel’s back or maybe my heart just grew three sizes that day, but I realized I had failed my readers, this city and myself.

This quick and dirty rundown of three amazing places in San Francisco that students might actually have an interest in – and be able to afford without skipping cell phone payments – is my small attempt at penance.

Café International
If you feel positive vibrations at the corner of Haight and Fillmore Streets, they’re probably coming from Café International. To get some fresh air and relative seclusion with your coffee, you can step out on the back patio; if you just want to have a draft beer and a bagel at 10:30 in the morning, the seating inside is spacious and comfortable.

There’s free jazz on Sundays, free entertainment almost every night and food and brew at student prices.

Tommy’s Joynt
Is it a tourist-trap? Maybe, but it’s a fair-priced one that offers gigantic sandwiches and other fine foods. Their bar is big, diverse, and a cozy spot to have a bite and a beer. You can also eat buffalo there, if that sort of thing appeals to you.

Cash only, but you won’t need much – bring ten bucks and you’ll leave happy.

Tommy’s Joynt is located on the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Geary Street.

Trad’r Sam
Yup, it’s a bar, and since the average age of a City College student is roughly 35, I feel comfortable telling you about it. If you’re under 21, I’m sorry.

It has an Internet jukebox, so beware of those taking a drunken stagger down memory lane. Or, be that guy and do it yourself.

It’s everything good about a tiki lounge with most of the down-home charm of a traditional dive bar. Drinks are stupid cheap, stupid potent and will make you stupid. Trad’r Sam is located on Geary Street between 25th and 26th avenues.

Out of the suite and into the street
Until we meet again.

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