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Sometimes one’s experience at a venue can be so remarkably bad that it results in that place being black-listed for life. That was the fate I had figured for downtown bar, The Local Eatery & Drinking Hole (1065 Fourth Avenue, Downtown), after a fateful night in 2008 when my wife and I stopped in for a bite and a beer before attending a show at Spreckels Theatre. Happy anticipation of adult beverages and live music shifted to disappointment and anger when the bartender lumbered from the taps with a full pint of hefeweizen and promptly spilled it on my wife. That was bad enough, but what was worse was the fact no towel was offered, nor was a replacement beer, nor was an apology. We requested a towel and were handed an already moist dishrag. Needless to say, we never went back…until last week.

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Now, I get it—this was an isolated incident. Surely, drinks aren’t carelessly spilled on patrons with great regularity at any bar anywhere, still, I always respected the fact my wife purposely deprived The Local business they would have otherwise received from us during downtown expeditions. But friends of ours go there regularly and very much enjoy it. So, because they are friends of such high quality and character, my wife put the past in the past and we headed into The Local in the spirit of suds and second chances. And we were glad we did.

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The experience was much better, and not just because we smartly sat in a much safer seat away from the bar. In 2008, The Local had a small but respectable stock of craft beer. That has evolved into one of the better tap lists I’ve had to choose from in some time. The majority of what they had to offer last Friday consisted of aptly local standouts plus specialty brews like Karl Strauss Brewing Company's holiday fruitcake beer Mouette a Trois, and a mint chocolate stout from Santee’s Manzanita Brewing Company called The Night Before Christmas that was spot-on in its dessert profile and outstanding. In addition to the taps, there was a bottle list that, while more standard-issue in its selections (you’ve seen these beers all over) is so extensive it’s worth praising.

Beyond the beer, the service was also night-and-day. Not only was our waitress extremely friendly in the midst of a Friday evening nearly full house, she went out of her way to help us with beer selections even though we didn’t ask. Her recommendations weren’t perfect, but they were logical and she went out of her way throughout our visit. That was not only cool and appreciated, but the true sign of a bar where there’s a commitment to craft beer versus merely selling craft beer. That commitment dug the hole where my missus has buried the hatchet. But we’ll still opt for a seat beyond the splash zone just to be safe!

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