7 Mile House
2800 Bayshore Blvd.
Sometimes I like a little history with my burgers and beer.
Especially if that history involves gangsters, hookers, gamblers and other shady characters of ill repute.
I definitely came to the right place.
San Francisco was about the last place in America I was expecting to find a blue collar dive like this.
This is the city more famous for public parks full of hand-holding naked men, taxpayer funded sex changes and roving gangs of tofu-munching yoga instructors.
Certainly not traditional American values like cheap beer and towering greasy burgers.
But that’s exactly what you’ll find here at the 7 Mile House just a mile or so south of the city limits in Brisbane.
The bawdy history of this dive bar began in 1853, when it was established as part of a chain of “mile houses” along the old stagecoach road that ran from the San Francisco Ferry Building to San Jose.
Later, 7 Mile become a post office stop along the Pony Express.
These mile houses located every mile or so along the dusty, bumpy, hilly journey gave the poor stagecoach horses and their drivers a spot to rest and take a drink.
You know. That whole “whiskey for my men, beer for my horses” thing Toby Keith and Willie Nelson sang about so eloquently.
The owners of 7 Mile (seven miles south of the San Francisco Ferry Building), discovered that meeting the needs of these rugged travelers could be a lucrative business.
Fresh water and horses.
Beer and whiskey.
Rooms for rent and female companionship.
That’s early American entrepreneurship.
But like many brothels and gambling halls, 7 Mile attracted a shady crowd of robbers, thieves and gangsters such as the infamous Hayes Valley Gang who cut a path of murderous destruction through San Francisco in the 1870s.
As recently as the 1980s, 7 Mile was a scary biker bar harboring the largest illegal gambling ring in the West until the Feds arrested everyone involved and spoiled all the fun.
Now days, 7 Mile still maintains some of that shady mystique without the fear of being stabbed.
An ethnically diverse clientele of local blue collar guys populated the bar by the time I strolled through the front door at 6pm on a Tuesday.
The smoking hot bartender knew every one of them by name -- except me of course.
As usual, I stood out like a tourist at a Hells Angels convention.
Everyone else was drinking PBR and Budweiser long necks.
I ordered the local 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA on draft.
Nobody else at the bar was eating.
I ordered the infamous Cow Palace Burger and garlic fries.
The guy sitting next to me moved over a stool. I think he knew something I didn’t.
You don’t want to be too close to a stranger gorging on a pound and a half of greasy cow, pig and garlic fries.
The Cow Palace is epic. It’s even been featured on national television.
Two half pound beef patties topped with melted cheese, sautéed onions, barbeque sauce, onion rings, tomato and a quarter pound of bacon. All held together by a foot long tooth pick.
When the cook brought this monstrosity out of the kitchen and plunked it on the bar in front of me, a jolt of panic flashed through his eyes as the tower of meat tilted precariously to one side.
I grabbed it before catastrophe struck and then pondered a very profound question.
How in the hell am I supposed to eat this damn thing?
At seven inches tall, I quickly realized that the human anatomy was not designed for such challenges. There is no mouth known to the human race big enough to wrap around that much meat.
Not even Joy Behar’s big mouth.
So I opted for the squeeze and nibble strategy.
No. This has nothing to do with the nefarious activities in the 7 Mile’s upstairs room back in the 19th Century.
I just squooshed as hard as I could with my hands, opened my jaws as far as they would go and plunged my face into meat heaven.
My strategy worked pretty well. At first.
Then all the drippy grease, cheese and onions conspired to disintegrate the bun.
Why can’t a place that sells an epic, nationally famous burger contain its creation in sturdier, higher quality buns?
It was a minor criticism considering how outstanding the rest of the components tasted.
The beef was perfectly cooked to a nice pink medium as evidenced by the waterfall of grease spilling onto the 150 year old bar top.
The multi-layered bacon was thick, greasy and perfectly cooked, providing a nice porky flavor in every beefy, cheesy bite.
Much like the buns, the breading around the onion rings disintegrated robbing the burger of the expected fried crunch I craved.
Somehow I managed to eat almost the whole thing. By the time I surrendered, there was nothing left but a few random bits of beef here, soggy bun there.
Of course I made sure not to leave any bacon remainders. That really would be a federal crime.
I even polished off my mound of garlic fries that came on the side.
Garlic fries are something of a San Francisco Bay specialty, as Gilroy, the self-proclaimed “Garlic Capital of the World”, is just a short drive south of here.
But most Northern California inspired garlic fries I’ve tried in the past were nothing more than boring fries sprinkled with some garlic salt.
7 Mile leaves no doubt about its garlicky condiment -- or the need for a breath mint.
Whole cloves of fresh-from-the-fields garlic are crushed and scattered across the oily fries. Every bite yields a pungent sweet flavor to bring the otherwise uninspiring fries to life.
Best of all was my Brew Free of Die! IPA from the brewmasters just down the street at 21st Amendment Brewery.
You know any brewery that names itself after the liberty-celebrating Constitutional Amendment that restored our rights as Americans to drink beer is going to take its task seriously.
I wonder if the folks at 21st Amendment have ever considered the irony that they located their brewery in a city that is considering banning everything from Happy Meals to circumcision to the sale of gold fish.
To crazed San Francisco leftists, no aspect of your life is too mundane or personal not to regulate.
You want to see men buggering in a public park? You’ve come to the right place.
You want to buy your kid a gold fish or a Happy Meal? You’re a heartless corporatist oppressor who must be stopped by government force.
21st Amendment celebrates one of the few freedoms remaining in this city with a wide range of kick-ass brews.
But Brew Free or Die! IPA is the best of the best, providing a hoppy kick of liberty in every patriotic sip.
Even if all the locals were drinking PBR and looking at me suspiciously.
It just seemed such an appropriate beer to down in a century old former speakeasy where illegal booze was probably the least objectionable activity going down within its confines.
But I can understand the suspicions of the locals.
7 Mile is a historic treasure in more ways than one.
If you are an all-American, God-fearing, hard working PBR man, there aren’t too many places to hang out in San Francisco.
7 mile just might be the only down-to-earth, blue collar refuge for men who actually still dress like men to down long necks for under a five spot in the entire Bay area.
They’re not going to take too kindly to some fancy beer sipping suit ruining the place.
Not to worry.
Trust me. I appreciate a hand-holding-naked-dudes-FREE zone as much as anyone.
Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.