Retro charm at Aub Zam Zam

Do you have an American history final quickly approaching? Are you having a hard time conceptualizing what the post-World War II America of the 1940s looked like? Are you over 21 years of age? Well, you can visit this era anytime you wish, and it’s right here in San Francisco.

Aub Zam Zam is a bar/time capsule that instantly whisks you away to a time when men didn’t leave the house without a jacket and hat and women never dreamed of being seen in public sans gloves and fur stole.

Located on Haight Street, this traditionalist bar is not just an homage to San Francisco history-it is history.

In 1991, San Francisco Chronicle writer and man-about-town Herb Caen wrote that Aub Zam Zam was “a place that time forgot, its curving bar filled with worshippers sitting in silent contemplation of the silver bullet in its graceful stemmed glass.”

Time has changed much of the facade of Haight Street itself, but inside this bar that time forgot lies an almost perfectly preserved, Persian-inspired homage to the perfectly poured martini.

At Aub Zam Zam, the martinis are stirred and not shaken (James Bond be damned), and the choice of drinks are varied but classic.

Don’t expect any of the blended and multi-colored drinks that are normally served to you by a waitress wearing a goofy hat and 25 buttons with groan-worthy phrases on them.

At Aub Zam Zam, you get a cocktail mixed and poured by an expert, enough ambience to fill a chapter in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and a barstool to sit on-nothing more, and as you will find, it’s all you’ll need. There are tables with chairs in the back of the bar, but if you know the history of this place, you will never sit there.

As the legend goes, Bruno Mooshe, the old owner and bartender who took the business from his father in 1950 and owned it until shortly before his death in 2000, closed the table-seating area after his wife died.

“When his wife died, he just didn’t see the point of offering table service anymore, and Bruno stuck with it,” explained Andrea, Aub Zam Zam’s current bartender. “From then on, if you asked if you could sit there, he just kicked you out.”

Things are much friendlier now at Aub Zam Zam, but that is about all that has changed. When you look at a photo of this establishment from the 1940s, you will notice that the only thing that differs from the photo is the fact that you can see the bright colors of the mural and walls. Everything else is frozen in time-even the original cash register is still used.

Drinks are expensive at Aub Zam Zam, but you are paying for the history you’re soaking in. Martinis (their specialty) are $8, but they are large and entirely perfect. A variety of beers are also available, but the clientele on the day I stopped by were all opting for classic cocktails.

Aub Zam Zam is not for everyone, but if you want to experience San Francisco as it once was and are of legal drinking age, you would be hard pressed to find a better representation than this classic bar hidden in plain sight on Haight Street.

Aub Zam Zam is located at 1633 Haight St (between Belvedere St & Clayton St) in San Francisco.

Hours: Mon-Sun 1 p.m. – 2 a.m.