Perhaps I am a little behind the times (perhaps not), but the concept of a Wine Pub is new to me. So I did know really know what to expect when I set out to check out Jamber which opened in September 2012 in the SoMa district in San Francisco.
Jamber has the feel, the ambience, the food, and the drinks to make it feel of an ideal place for a casual drink and bite while catching up with friends or colleagues after work. This is not a place one should go anticipating tastes of high-end wine. However, the wines (and beers) they serve are of good quality priced reasonably – certainly great value for San Francisco.
The pub is owned by siblings Jess Voss and Matt Voss. Matt moved here after college a few years ago. Matt called Jess who was in Seattle to move down and start something up together in the restaurant business. Jess moved down and the rest is history. I had known Matt. He and I had met a few times at University of Chicago Wine Appreciation Series events that I conduct with my friend and fellow wine geek Daphne Feng.
The thing that strikes me most about Jamber is a clear identity. Good wine, good beer, simple but excellent comfort food, and a welcoming environment. I did not know what a Wine Pub should be before I went to Jamber but everything about it felt like it what a Wine Pub should be. It is refreshing to see an unpretentious place that is well thought out and has a clear sense of who they are, and more importantly, who they are not. It is also great to find a place where do not have to shout and beg to be attended to at the bar and be finally approached and condescended to by a bar-tender who is doing you a huge favor by throwing a drink your way.
I tried over ten wines, four beers, and some food over a couple of visits. They seem to have good coffee too – another one of my vices but I am yet to try it. I loved the food, the drink, the service, and I think I found my new casual hangout place. I wish it were in my hood.
All of Jamber’s wine and beer are local and from kegs – no bottles. Jess and Matt handpicked these wines and beers and can talk to you about their style and their story and in many cases they know the wine and beer makers, which is a nice touch. I snacked each time I visited and could tell that their food, which tasted great, was made with care from fresh and quality ingredients.
Jamber is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday and Monday, until midnight Tuesday through Thursday, and until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. They also have some space upstairs where I heard a rambunctious group at a private event the last time I was there. Sounded like fun.
I have increasingly felt that finding a place with the simplicity of a decent drink, an uncomplicated but quality bite and place to hang with polite service is too hard to find. Jamber scratches that itch. It is run by folks that care and it shows!
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