In 1939, the Mark Hopkins hotel transformed their top floor penthouse into a cocktail lounge, complete with a band, dance floor, and perhaps the best view in all of San Francisco. They called this new space Top of the Mark, and it was an immediate success with locals and celebrities alike. Over the years, the likes of Elvis Presley, Prince Charles, and Michael Jackson have all paid a visit to Top of the Mark, so I figured if it was good enough for The King, a future King, and the King of Pop, well then it was good enough for me.
As soon as you step off the elevator, there's a layer of classic coolness that's felt in the air. One can imagine Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy enjoying a night out on the town here, with Cary Grant stopping by the table just to say hello. If the Great Gatsby were set in San Francisco, Top of the Mark is the sort of place everyone would hang out whenever he wasn't throwing a party.
The view is what receives top billing at Top of the Mark, and we had the perfect table to enjoy the panorama. From the Golden Gate to our left, to the TransAmerica Pyramid on our right, the surprisingly clear day allowed us to look down on a huge swath of this beautiful city.
|A great view of the Bay...|
Top of the Mark is also known for their insanely long "martini" list, with over 100 different options to choose from. Naturally, I went with my customary Manhattan, and sat back to enjoy the view. The bliss was short lived however, because the San Francisco fog rolled in, essentially closing the curtains around the entire room.
|A pretty great combination.|
With the minor distraction of the view out of the way, we decided to enjoy a few light bites to eat. While Top of the Mark is famous for their Sunday brunch, they offer a diverse menu of small plates for guests in the evenings as well.
|Poached Shrimp Atop Beds Of Sticky Rice|
|Trio of Sliders - Garbanzo Cake, Crabcake, Kobe Beef|
|Mezze of Cheese|
|The "Heavenly Flat" - Lemon Profiteroles, Blueberry Tart, Chocolate Pot de Creme|
When our server returned I asked him about the significance of the liquor cabinet I'd seen near the hostess stand when we arrived. The bottles inside were wrapped with hand written notes, and I assumed there had to be a story. As it turned out there was a story, and it's one which defines the history of Top of the Mark.
During World War II, soldiers would leave a bottle with the bartender so that other servicemen could enjoy a toast to the Golden Gate Bridge for good luck. The soldier that took the final sip then had the responsibility to buy the next bottle. This made Top of the Mark a popular spot amongst soldiers looking for one last hurrah before shipping off to the war in the Pacific.
|I guess this is what they call a white out?|
I sat in a trance while listening to the music, allowing the weight of this story to fully sink in. We came to Top of the Mark as a way to say farewell to San Francisco, a place where 60 years before soldiers gathered to say goodbye to loved ones and their country, sometimes forever.
|The Band Between Numbers|
I could see them everywhere, people with far greater problems than any generation has known since, coming together to enjoy one last glorious night. There was a group in the corner, sharing stories from back home, while other pairs were spread around the room, holding hands and enjoying a final few moments alone. They were on the dance floor, laughing and moving to the music, oblivious to the fears that would surely return in the morning.
A change in the song brought me back to reality, but the flashback had been inspiring. I realized that history demanded more from our visit to Top of the Mark than just a few cocktails and a light tapping of my left foot. Rising from my chair, I took a step far outside of my comfort zone, and for the first time since the night of our wedding, I asked my wife to dance.
Enjoy Your Stay