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Orbit Room Cafe

Orbit Room Still in Full Rotation

It's hard to get a good Caipirinha in this town. But the best I have had so far has been at Orbit Room, mixed by Alberta, one of the city's best bartenders. Her Caipirinha is a slightly salty, sour mix of Brazilian cachaca and lime juice- it's the real thing! And it will leave your saliva glands wishing it were Friday. The cocktail is listed among many other hard-hitters on the colorful menu, which also features the Side Car, the Sazerac and the Mint Julep among many others. But these are only a small portion of the bar's repertoire, which includes rare beasts such as the Champs Elysées, the Negroni, and the San Francisco.

The perennial Orbit Room is located in one of the city's toughest corners-at a sharp angle that borders Market, Laguna and Hermann Streets in the heart of the no-man's land between the business district and the Castro. Tall windows, circular bar, art deco detailing and a crowd peppered with colorful hair and plentiful body piercings make you feel like you have stepped into the typical hipster bar scene. The sweeping view reminds you that you are in the city's heartland. Outdoor tables make this café/bar a great place to spend the day if the wind doesn't pick up. Orbit Room is one of the few places where gays, artists, alternatives and strait-edges overlap, and unless you perch yourself next to the drunk antagonist at the bar, the crowd is refreshing.

After acknowledging that there is little beyond a martini at Martuni's to draw you to this neck of the woods, it goes without saying that the Orbit Room is worth the trip. Alberta's bar looks more like a salad bar with bins full of mint, orange slices, watermelon, lemons, limes, olives, cherries and fresh ginger. The variety of fresh-squeezed juices would confound any Jamba Juice employee, and the commitment the staff has to the traditional and lost cocktails of yesteryear will make the 11 year-old Orbit Room a destination bar for a long time to come.

Orbit Room is a cash-only establishment, so leave the plastic at home. Ditto with the car as the place seems to exist in a parking vacuum. The café continues to serve a small selection of sweet treats and panini long after patrons stop drinking espressos, and officially closes at 10 pm every night. If business is hungry, the café will stay open. Hours of operation at the bar are similarly vague. While management says that they close at 2:00 a.m. daily, they admit to closing early on Sunday and Monday if no one's around.