Now that travel restrictions to Cuba for Americans have eased, you’re probably wondering where you can smoke those Cuban cigars you’re itching to bring back to San Francisco. We’ve got a haute place: the Cigar Bar & Grill in Jackson Square. We love the vibe at this 10-year-old, Cuban-themed joint, located at 850 Montgomery Street, and one of a few San Francisco cigar bars.
After you enter the main double doors, walk down a flight of stairs and into a convival bar area, where there’s a small humidor with a broad range of premium brand and hand-rolled cigars from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras. What about Cuba? Not so fast!
“We can’t sell them yet,” says the Cigar Bar & Grill’s co-owner/general manager Matt Kahn. “But as soon as my wholesaler can get them, we will have them.”
It’s worth noting that U.S. citzens traveling to Cuba will only be allowed to import up to $100 in alcohol and tobacco products, under the regulations, setting a limit on the number of Cuban cigars Americans will be permitted to bring home.
Although Kahn thinks “there will be a renewed interest in all things Cuba” due to President Barack Obama changing the U.S. policy, he also says, “I would argue that the Dominicans make an equally good cigar.”
Kahn says if you’re blind tasting, it would be hard to distinguish which cigar is the Dominican and which is the Cuban due.
“I would compare it to Napa and Bordeaux,” says Kahn, adding that people may expect Bordeaux to have better wine—and generally the first growth does—but “Napa gives Bordeaux a run for the money. The top Dominican cigars would give Cubans a run for the money.”
Customers can bring their own cigars or purchase on the spot. About seven percent of Cigar Bar & Grill’s sales are cigars, which means there are plenty of other reasons to come to this happening spot that was hopping when we popped in on a recent Friday.
“The biggest thing is the space,” Kahn says proudly. “We’ve got a big space downtown and after work, everybody comes here.”
A courtyard with a fountain and heaters above wooden tables offer an ideal spot to smoke a stogie. There’s also a main dining room, parlor, pool hall, dance hall and bar where Travis Holmes serves as the spirits director and sultry music plays in the background. When it comes to liquor, Cigar Bar & Grill favors small producers slanted toward brown liquors [single malts, whiskey, cognac and Armagnac] and rum. As Kahn says about his rum selection, “We’re not Smuggler’s Cove but we’ve got some pretty good ones.”
We agree. You’ll find everything from Mt. Gay Black Barrel to to 1796 Santa Teresa ‘Ron Antigua Solera’ to Rhum Clement XO. The impressive wine list includes bottles from Bordeaux, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia and, of course, California and Oregon
Brick ceilings and walls along with arched entryways, art from local talent, leather couches and low lighting provide the perfect ambiance to spend an evening with friends. It’s where you can enjoy live Latin Jazz and, on Fridays and Saturdays, kick up your heels to Cuban bands playing salsa music.
The always-changing rustic menu features California cuisine with a Latin slant. Spanish chorizo bruschetta, ceviche, papas bravas, cilantro pesto rigatoni as well as New York strip steak, butterflied chicken breast, garlic-herbed fries and ahi tartare were on the menu during our visit.
There’s also happy hour Monday through Friday and Cuban salsa lessons on Saturdays.