The stairway up from ground-floor Frank
to St. Francis has a narrow, ascent to the choir loft feel — all the better to set one up for a dramatic entry. Cue the swell of a long-gone organ and take in the former Alamo Methodist Church sanctuary now devoted in equal measure to sausage, suds and spirits of a secular sort. Stained glass still abounds, including an especially poignant panel of a praying Jesus behind the bar; it’s gloriously illuminated in the light of a happy-hour afternoon. I don’t know if the laughing ladies whose appreciation of the new order was much in evidence had asked permission or forgiveness, but they were clearly having a good time reading from a revised hymnal, one whose extensive selection of bourbons, ryes, tequilas and mezcales would seem to encourage one to stray from the fold.
Almost none of these shots are discounted during the generous 3-7 p.m. happy hour, but the cocktail menu on offer does include some stout possibilities, a Negroni among them. This is one of those bellwether drinks that can signal a bar’s competence, and St. F did a perfectly good job with the classic — equal-parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. I tend to prefer it with a single, large cube, but it can also tolerate the dilution that the bar’s smaller ice provided—assuming you’re drinking fast to beat the deadline for just one more.
That same ice (same orange swath, too) didn’t serve a rye Old Fashioned quite as well. Spirits guru David Wondrich calls this drink, composed of rye (or bourbon), sugar and bitters, “strong, square-jawed." Mine arrived already a little watery and slack-jawed — but at least it hadn’t been profaned with a lot of muddled fruit. And at $5, it, the daiquiri, gimlet, and Jameson and Fernet (for those atoning for something) shots also provide good, virtuous value. There’s a draft marg, too.
Beer is another obvious companion to the shareable $10 sausage platter I ordered (it’s $16 at regular times), and here the happy hour menu also comes through, as select brews (Modelo, Schlitz…) range from $1-$3. The sausages themselves, the foundation upon which Frank is built, are good but not mind-blowing (the trio features variations on a theme of pork), and they benefit from an anointing with any of the three, outstanding mustards.
But it’s the airy pretzel sticks that almost steal the show; they’re probably the best way to first sample the mustards. Heaps of sauerkraut with caraway and braised red cabbage complete the platter. A hummus plate, chili cheese fries (ask forgiveness for this one, too), and lil’ smokies are among other options. Raise your voices in praise (though not as high as the Laughing Ladies): it’s a hallelujah happy hour.
1150 S. Alamo St., (210) 265-5292; happy hour is available Monday-Friday 3-7pm.