ABV’s upstairs nook will feature a $22 cocktail and lots of caviar
Over Proof, the upstairs bar-inside-a-bar at 16th street’s ABV, was once a quarterly-rotating theme bar and restaurant, with each fixed-price iteration dedicated to a different spirit, until it closed in early 2018. Next week the nook will reopen with a more traditional plan, serving dinner and inventive cocktails to a reservations-only crowd.
Over Proof co-owner Ryan Fitzgerald said that the bar’s team finally decided to get off the merry-go-round last year after a mezcal-themed final round. “We realized that as soon as we got the restaurant open we had to start thinking about opening another restaurant,” Fitzgerald says. “It was exhausting.”
So exhausting, in fact, that its owners “took a vacation” from the space for over a year, then revamped it themselves, rough-and-tumble DIY style. “We decided we wanted a more luxe vibe,” Fitzgerald says, which included chopping the space’s bar-height tables down to seating height and adding a banquette. “We all have construction backgrounds,” he says of himself and co-owners Todd Smith and Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud, “and we did pretty much everything ourselves, except for the wallpaper.”
The result is a cozy 18-seat bar and dining area, with most tables sized for two. It’s an intentional design, Fitzgerald says, planned to ensure the space “isn’t just overflow from the bar.”
Another line of differentiation is the menu, with food from ABV chefs Collin Hilton and Nick Salazar and a variety of cocktails that were collectively designed by the staff. The menu includes food that Fitzgerald characterizes as a “crazy value” — though the potato chips (made in house) that come garnished with caviar will run you somewhere between $25 and $75. “It’s cheaper than getting caviar at the store,” Fitzgerald says, adding that there’s similar value to be found in the other menu offerings, which include a $15 crudo and a $22 scallop entree.
The cocktails, meanwhile, top off at $22: a Rob Roy made with a choice of Nikka whisky or Kilkerran single malt. That, too, is a deal, Fitzgerald says, as industry colleagues who tried the drink did the mental math and calculated that it should be priced at $32.
“Our margins would probably freak out some bar managers and send them running for the hills,” Fitzgerald says, but he’s confident that his spot will see success. “People are still going out,” he says, contradicting a narrative that’s risen across the city in recent years, and bars — especially in Over Proof and ABV’s Mission District area — “still get crowds.”
In fact, those crowds are one of the things that spurred Over Proof’s reservations-only nature. “Going out on Friday or Saturday night” in the city’s more popular neighborhoods “can be brutal, but that’s when you want to go out,” Fitzgerald says. By making Over Proof into a limited-crowd spot, the plan is to create a destination for people seeking a good time but not a wild one. It’s a “way for us to differentiate ourselves,” Fitzgerald says, “and, hopefully, to provide people with a unique enough experience that they’ll keep coming back.”