When you walk into Wildhawk, the stylish new cocktail lounge from the PlumpJack Group on the corner of 19th and Lexington Streets in San Francisco’s Mission District, you’ll be shocked by the bar’s astounding makeover. For 18 years, the space was the Lexington Club, a divey sometimes dicey bar beloved by SF’s lesbian set. However, last year owner, Lila Thirkield, could no longer keep up with the lease and sold the space to Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and his sister, Hilary Newsom Callan’s hospitality group, PlumpJack. The much-anticipated neighborhood bar was completely gutted, renovated, and designed by interior design maven, Jay Jeffers. The thoughtfully curated drink menu was crafted by bar veterans Ken Luciano and Jacques Bezuidenhou, the dynamic duo behind PlumpJack’s other recently opened cocktail destination, The Forgery. Inspired by the tapas bars of Spain, chef Howard Ko created the brief, but delicious menu of snacks and housemade charcuterie.
Photo Credit: Matthew Millman
The resulting bar is a feast for all of the senses. Everywhere you look, there is something flashy, weathered, textured, or eye-catching. Jeffers was inspired by Lola Montez, an exotic dancer who partook in scandalous public affairs during San Francisco’s Gold Rush days, and he’s left no detail unturned. “We channeled Lola throughout our design for the new Wildhawk bar. We thought “What Would Lola Want?” today? A dark, sexy modern day pub – fitting to meet some of her gentleman (or lady) callers, a spot for the best cocktails in town, a place to come and hold court for the evening,” explained Jeffers over cocktails on a recent afternoon at the new space. “I like to keep a bit of history in a spot when I can. We kept the original bar installed by the Lexington Club some 18 years ago – stripped it down and dressed it up with inset leather panels. We kept the original hardwood floors – beat up over the years to a fantastic patina.” Jeffers expertly mixes historic vintage pieces with eclectic modern items hand-selected from local retailers, including objects from his namesake store.
The curtains are pulled tightly shut giving the bar a romantic sultry vibe, even in the middle of a sunny afternoon. The color palate is emerald green, mixed with black and white, and gold and wooden accents, plus plenty of zebra print. The walls are covered in a black and white print of roses and thorns. Leather couches, plush armchairs, and a cabinet filled with old books and trinkets that “were Lola’s” give the space a relaxed living room-like feel. Even the bathroom is covered in a dizzying wallpaper design that on further inspection proves to be a kaleidoscope of dancing Lolas. The spirit-driven cocktails are perfectly balanced and with artisanal ingredients and hard to find spirits. Food includes sardines that come in a tin can covered in a housemade pickled escabeche with grilled Tartine bread drenched in olive oil. There is also thick slabs of rich pate and tangy jam and miniature vegetables with creamy tangy dipping sauce. Wildhawk opened earlier this week and it’s definitely one of the hautest bars San Francisco has seen in awhile.