Eager to remind all the kids out there that drunk driving is a whole lot more fun when the car is imaginary, Barrespondent Drew spends another night honking and shaking his fist at bike messengers while the other BART passengers give him funny looks.
Have sober people ever played pool? Darned if we know, but perhaps more so than any other ‘sport’ (except maybe darts), billiards is one that we’re sure is meant only to be played by those that are half in the bag. Honestly, where would the fun be in not being drunk enough to think you can actually make half the shots a person actually attempts during this game? The artificial confidence brought on by large amounts of alcohol is the only thing that stops the average game of eight-ball from being about as much fun as standing around and flipping a coin.
Like most of your bar sports (billiards, darts, spot-the-coke-dealer), the one thing that makes watching people play it really exciting is large-scale illegal gambling. After all, there’s nothing that sucks that false pride that booze gave him out of a guy faster than watching $100 of his hard earned money fly out of his pocket because he couldn’t make a combo shot.
We’ll delve into our favorite ‘gentlemanly’ pool bar after the jump.
Gino & Carlo on Green Street in North Beach is one of the all time classics. No other place we’ve ever been on the west coast so accurately captures that Hoboken wiseguy experience better than this place. I dare anyone to hang out in this place for more than an hour without having a hilarious story to tell later on. In fact, if this place were any more authentic it would either be shut down or far too dangerous to enter.
They don’t have an incredible drink selection here, there aren’t 30 beers on tap, and it’s not filled to the brim with hot chicks. If you come to Gino & Carlo for any of those reasons, you will be sorely disappointed. But if you want incredible ambience, great conversation and the unsettling feeling that you’re surrounded by 20 guys named ‘Tony’, then this is your place.
The first time we ever went here was at the behest of someone we’d just met at a bar down the street. He told us his name was Billy Ray Valentine (which I believe was Eddie Murphy’s characters name in Trading Places) and that he was a professional pool player. The guy seemed drunk, talked like a blowhard and gave us no reason at all to believe him. So of course we followed him and watched him play a few rounds at Gino & Carlo. He seemed pretty good, but not ‘professional’ good. And then, towards the end of a game, Billy Ray got his cue ball stuck in a corner behind one of his opponent’s balls. Completely hopeless, right? So why was everyone who had money on the game throwing their bills at Billy Ray? He answered this question by walking up, nonchalantly jumping the ball entirely across the table and kissing in the eight to win. I’ve never before or since seen something so difficult made to look so goddamn easy.
And from that moment on, I’ve never doubted anything anyone’s ever said to me at Gino & Carlo.