7 Mile House
2800 Bayshore Blvd.
Sometimes I like a little history with my burgers and beer.
Especially if that history involves gangsters, gamblers, and other shady characters of ill repute.
But San Francisco was the last place I expected 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-eating 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 houses located every mile or so along the dusty, bumpy, 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 for the horses.
Beer and whiskey for the men.
Rooms for rent and female companionship.
That’s early American entrepreneurship.
But like many brothels and gambling halls, 7 Mile attracted a shady crowd – robbers, scammers, and gangsters like the infamous Hayes Valley Gang that brought a wave of murderous destruction in the 1870s.
Then up until the 1980s, 7 Mile was a scary biker bar harboring the largest illegal gambling ring in the West until the Feds arrested everyone and spoiled all the fun.
These days, 7 Mile still maintains some of that shady mystique but without the fear of getting 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 bartender knew every one of them by name — except me of course.
As usual, I stood out like a tourist at a Hell’s Angels convention.
Everyone was drinking PBR and Budweiser long necks, but I ordered the local 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA on tap.
Nobody else at the bar was eating, but I ordered the infamous Cow Palace Burger with garlic fries.
The guy sitting next to me moved over a stool. I think he knew something I didn’t.
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 toothpick.
When the cook brought the 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 mouth was not designed for such challenges.
So I squooshed it down as hard as I could, opened my jaws as far as they’d go, and plunged my face into burger heaven.
My strategy worked pretty well. At first.
Then all the drippy grease, cheese, and onions began to disintegrate the bun.
Why can’t a place that sells an epic, nationally famous burger contain its creation in a sturdier bun?
Still, it was a minor criticism considering how outstanding this burger tasted.
The beef was perfectly cooked to a nice pink, the bacon was thick and greasy, providing a nice porky flavor in every beefy, cheesy bite.
Much like the bun, the breading around the onion rings disintegrated, robbing the burger of the expected fried crunch that I craved.
But the sautéed onions, cheese, and BBQ sauce added plenty of flavor to my messy mountain of meat.
Somehow I managed to eat almost the whole thing. By the time I surrendered, there was nothing left but a few bits of beef here, soggy bun there.
I even polished off my mound of garlic fries.
Garlic fries are something of a San Francisco Bay specialty since Gilroy – the self-proclaimed “Garlic Capital of the World” – is just a short drive south of here.
Most garlic fries I’ve tried in the past were nothing more than fries sprinkled with garlic salt.
Fresh cloves of garlic are crushed and scattered over the fries, each bite yielding a pungent, slightly sweet flavor.
Best of all was my Brew Free or Die! IPA from the brew masters just down the street at 21st Amendment Brewery.
You know any brewery that names itself after the 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 appreciate the irony that their brewery is in a city that wants to ban everything from Happy Meals, to circumcision, to the sale of gold fish.
To crazed San Francisco leftists, nothing in life is too valuable to not regulate it.
So in contrast, 21st Amendment celebrates one of the few freedoms remaining in this city with several kick-ass brews.
But Brew Free or Die! IPA is the best of the best – a hoppy kick of liberty in every patriotic sip.
Even if all the locals were drinking PBR and looking at me suspiciously.
But I can understand their suspicion.
7 Mile is a historic treasure in more ways than one.
If you’re an all-American, God-fearing, hard-working PBR man, there aren’t many places to hang out in San Francisco.
7 Mile just might be the only refuge for men who still dress like men and work like men to drink cheap beer in the entire Bay area.
They’re not going to take too kindly to some fancy beer sipping guy in a suit.
But trust me – I appreciate a hand-holding-naked-dudes-FREE zone as much as anyone.
Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.