Part 2 of last weekend's date night with Dave was bucket list item 47, "Plan a date at hidden Hotel Biron where you can sip red wine over low lights," an idea I got from 7X7's 2012 Big To Do list. This one sounded like a good one because of Dave's and my affinity for a) wine and b) low lights.
A few things worth pointing out about Hotel Biron: first, it isn't a hotel, it's a wine bar, and second, you would never know this place existed if you were just walking by it on the street. It is tucked away on Rose, a dark and narrow alley off of Gough at Market Street. Since we were looking for it, we recognized the round red "B" sign, but otherwise I highly doubt I would have known this place was a bar. Another surprise that awaited us when we arrived was how empty the place was at 9:45 on a Saturday night. Since I had read about it on 7X7 I had imagined that it would be more popular, and that we may even have a hard time finding a seat. Instead, we found only a few of their tables and couches occupied. A few more people came in after 10, but in total there were probably no more than 15 or so people there the entire time.
The bar itself was indeed lowly-lit as promised, and it had the much-sought-after in San Francisco exposed brick and wooden beam architecture. It was fairly small and cozy, and I was amused by the schooner-shaped chandelier in the unisex bathroom. The menu consisted of international wines by the bottle and by the glass, beer, and some light bites.
Hotel Biron was a great setting for the night to become more intimate, and we fell into the type of compelling, soul-spilling conversation you can only have when 3 or more drinks deep. (Is it any wonder I love wine so much??) We ordered another glass each - another Torrontes for him, and a very tasty Malbec for me, and more conversation and admissions poured out of us. Though reluctant to end the good conversation, around midnight we realized if we didn't leave soon, the next morning would be rough, so we grabbed a cab and headed home.
The verdict: I liked this place, but I can't say for sure I will be back. If I lived close by I could see it being a great local go-to, but there was nothing particularly compelling about it that would cause me to seek it out from my part of the city. I think this was a fun date spot, and would score mad scenester points on a first date. I don't think I would include this on a top 100 things to do in the city, but I would definitely recommend not skipping it if you're thirsty and in the neighborhood.