Firsts things first: I never went to Marlena's, never experienced the drag shows, and never had the pleasure to bear witness to the kitschy Christmas wall of Santas. I won't pretend and tell you about what the bar used to be like, frankly because I don't know. Not counting this one, I've written about 96 different bars in the Bay Area for this column alone -- the one thing I learned is that I will simply never make it to as bars many as I want or should make it to.
What I can tell you about the bar at 488 Hayes, Brass Tacks, is what it is now. Sleek and clean, dressed in grays, walnut, metal, and brass, it has a striking chandelier in the center of the bar that looks like it's wearing hundreds of melted champagne flutes earrings. The bar owned by Anthony Healy-London (of Churchill), Josh McAdam, and Matty Conway (formerly of Absinthe and a 2013 Bar Star), with Conway spending most of the time behind the bar. The drinks are exceptionally crafted, complex, and fast, but the pretension level is low and it has a neighborhood vibe with a wild mix of people from all walks and even some on walks (pooches welcome). Open from two in the afternoon until two in the morning, it's a great stop for an aperitif, nightcap, or anything in between.
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