Frisco Beat: Burritt Room + Tavern

dinan1a Jim Dinan popped in a shot from the tour he took on September 8, 2013 — and he also sent along the moody pic of Burritt alley above. Black & white. Very noir.

I bet Burritt has been photographed thousands of times by Hammett fans. But have you ever wondered about the building at the end of the alley? The building that brings it to a sudden dead end?

I admit that I never thought much about it. Just another building, but it looks old enough to have been around when Miles Archer got bumped — not some new structure such as they are tossing up willy-nilly all over San Francisco these days.

Currently the hotel operates under the name The Mystic, part of the Charlie Palmer Group. I’ve noticed the plaque next to the entrance listing the Burritt Room + Tavern as the tour marches past — dropping down from atop the Stockton tunnel en route to the corner of Sutter and Stockton for a gander at the Sam Spade office building. When Daniel Saltzstein contacted me about hunting down noir sites in San Francisco, I figured, hey, it might be time to finally set foot into the interior of this structure I have seen from the side so many times.

I showed Dan various Hammett sites, but we settled down in the Burritt Tavern for the major part of the interview. Best to do such things over drinks, takes the edge off the looming gloom of the noir universe.

The building dates from circa 1909, if I heard right — coolest historical angle is that apparently Stockton Street outside the door used to rise much higher before the tunnel was dug, so that what is now the first floor originally used to be the basement. The bar has nice antique detailing on the floor and walls. Didn’t try the restaurant, which is the action kicking in this new phase of recognition for the Mystic.

Did get to snake through various corridors on different floors and emerge through a back door into that dead end of Burritt alley. Nice.

The print version of Dan’s article appears in the Travel Section of the Sunday New York Times today, and has kicked in a storm of emails asking if I have a tour tomorrow, or Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday — nope, not even next Sunday or the Sunday after that. When a new walk gets set up where anyone can show up for $20 each, don’t worry, it’ll appear on the Current Walks page.

If I’d known exactly when the Times article was going to pop, I might have been able to set a walk to take the edge off the demand — but the volume is so large and random, then again, maybe not. Got to love the Times. They say jump, people are ready to jump.

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