A beloved cult figure in 1990s New York City, Timothy "Speed" Levitch became locally famous for his rhapsodical, philosophical, and downright eccentric (and yes, speedy) lectures as a bus tour guide. His exceptional worldview and heartfelt, often psychedelic stream-of-consciousness performances were captured as the subject of director Bennett Miller's 1998 documentary 'The Cruise.' Levitch is back on camera, this time on the Hulu original series 'Up To Speed,' in which he crosses the United States – everywhere from San Francisco to Kansas to Virginia – in search of quirky places with cool backstories.
He also likes good beer, which is why we asked him for a list of the oddest and most history-filled bars in America. When speaking with a genius tour guide, so it goes. From the birthplace of the Bloody Mary to a ramshackle speakeasy, these bars are sure to whet your curiosity, if not your thirst for a strong stout. Launch Gallery >>
Buena Vista Cafe (San Francisco)
Of the Buena Vista Cafe, Speed is uncharacteristically pithy: "It's a very cool place," he says. Easily accessed by cable car, the bar is located just along the Hyde Street line. Speed says it's a popular nightspot among locals, yet for tourists it's also the perfect place for a pick-me-up while scoping the attractions of the adjacent Fisherman's Wharf. Its claim to fame, however, is that the original owner cracked the secret of Irish Coffee.
It seems that the hallmark drink of the Emerald Isle was impossible to replicate stateside. That is, until 1952, when Stanton Delaplane and Jack Koeppler, owner of the Buena Vista, brought the issue to the mayor of San Francisco, who was a prominent dairy owner in the bayside city. They discovered that if the cream was allowed to sit for 24 hours, and then was precisely whipped, a drink could be produced that rivaled the one first concocted in what is Shannon Airport today. "They took the recipe and brought it to the next level, perfected it," says Speed. The drink propagated throughout the country, aided by San Franciscans who were delighted by the richness of the drink, as well as by the warm vibe of the cosmopolitan cafe. [The Buena Vista Cafe; 2765 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA, 415-474-5044]