Raw, adjective: 10. not diluted, as alcoholic spirits: raw whiskey.

Met up with my two old grad school friends, Kevin and Sarah, who were in town for the day from their new digs a couple of hours down the coast (happy anniversary, guys!), last night at Vesuvio. In case you slept through the part of high school English when you hit up the Beats and dive into some "On The Road," Vesuvio is the bar where it all went down. Right across "Jack Kerouac Alley" from [famously progressive] City Lights Bookstore and within stumbling distance of all the naked-lady clubs on Broadway and Columbus, Vesuvio's a classic, a total relic from days gone by.

I'd forgotten how charming and utterly unpretentious it is. The place still kind of quietly rests in its own little dusty, bohemian groove. Given how much attention the bar gets from tourist mags and international media alike, it's all the more remarkable that it's resisted the urge to Disney-ify and retained that same old comfortable feeling, along with prices that seem strangely low for being smack in the heart of the North Beach bar scene.

Vesuvio's website (www.vesuvio.com) has everything you'd expect - art, history, cocktail lists, etc. - but also offers two links to recent "Best Bar" lists from Esquire and the Guardian where, naturally, it finds itself mentioned. In a time when it seems most bars are stumbling over themselves trying to be hip with their lychee martinis and fresh sage and zillion flavored vodkas, it's refreshing to be reminded there's some place so wonderfully real, close to home, where khaki pants and expensive heels are nowhere to be found.


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