Tunnel Top – from Duchamp to Bossa Nova
Perched high above the actual tunnel on Stockton Street sits the Tunnel Top, an historic San Francisco institution. As I was crossing Bush Street, the dim lights were tempting me to go in. The original sign, probably from the sixties, still stands, and a massive oak door reads Merci when you get closer.
Welcome to the Tunnel Top, a European bar and lounge infused with the red and orange colors of the south of France, decorated with old antique shutters on the windows, 19th century SNCF (French railroads) lamps illuminating different focal points, and bottle racks in wrought iron (fer forgé). You can’t help but notice the impressive chandelier, a huge bottle rack (séchoir à bouteilles) that is actually an old replica of a Duchamp readymade, the first ordinary object found by Marcel Duchamp in the Bazaar of Paris in 1914 that entered the list of art objects – the readymades, as he called them.
As you climb the stairs to get to the mezzanine, a silent film is playing on the wall. The chandelier appears even grander, and your senses are buzzing. Groups of people are having a great time conversing on leather couches, feeling relaxed by the warmth of the décor. As you gaze at the art on the walls, you might wonder about the cross. This is actually an antique 1823 iron cross, one of many unusual pieces that make this place an artsy heaven.
Back at the bar below, Jean-Michel, the bartender, has a bright smile, busily preparing mojitos. The Tunnel Top offers outstanding cocktails made with fresh and organic ingredients. It has a stellar selection of Belgian beer and good French wine. Happy hour draws an eclectic mix of people, from professionals to strollers.
The bar is open from 5 PM to 2 AM, Monday to Saturday. A DJ, somewhat hidden from view in the mezzanine, plays every night. Mondays are Bossa Nova nights. During the week, the music can vary from Salsa to French musical icons. On Friday and Saturday, the style is Top 40. The weekends are the busiest time for the bar, and with all the action going on, don’t fail to notice all the details and good vibes that make this place a must-see!
- Tunnel Top, 601 Bush Street, San Francisco 94108
- (415) 986-8900