While many so-called dive bars in San Francisco of more recent vintage evolved in much the same way as pre-torn denim jeans, in other words because they’re trendy but not terribly authentic, Lucky 13 has been on the scene long enough to qualify as the real deal. Situated on upper Market Street just above Church Street where the Castro starts to taper off, it’s dark, loud, not particularly clean, and filled with folks who like it that way. What really decides whether a bar is a dive are the clientele and the regulars at Lucky 13 are looking for cheap beer, fast service, rocking music, and an unspoken dress code that requires comfortable shoes with good traction so you won’t slip on the spilled drinks and t-shirts that show off your tattoos. Clean bathrooms and table service are not priorities.
The crowd at Lucky 13 expect classic drinkers’ diversions like foosball, pool, and pinball machines, and free snacks like Goldfish crackers and fresh popcorn and the bar delivers all of these, the last courtesy of the in-house popcorn machine. The juke box plays a mostly old-school assortment of goth, punk, metal, and hardcore at a volume you might expect, a sound level that requires conversations to be had at the top of your lungs. There’s a healthy selection of beers and a complete absence of specialty cocktails, though an order of most standard ones can be accommodated.
Customers who smoke—which is likely most of them—hang out on the rear patio, prized for its relaxed “backyard” feel. Despite the bar’s iconic black cat pictured on the sign out front, Lucky 13 is decidedly dog-friendly, welcoming customers with canine companions who double as drinking buddies. A further example of the bar’s retrograde appeal, the bar’s photo booth ensures that should one’s foray into such a rough-around-the-edges hole in the wall be a memorable adventure, you’ll be able to commemorate it old-school style.
J. Eric Miller, a long-time San Franciscan, follows in the footsteps of the many literary giants that have called it home, hoping that someday he’ll be able to catch up with them and enjoy similar success Then he’ll move.