To enter the new underground speakeasy Felix, you press a secret button—a golden framed image of the bar’s namesake, who was a longtime server at the Vietnamese restaurant Bodega Bistro.
“Felix was a bold character. He was a familiar face for regulars and was always ready to party,” said Matt Ho, owner of Bodega Bistro, which has since reopened as Bodega SF. “We want to bring a similar energy to the space that’s lively and energetic, yet feels intimate and communal.”
People were ready to party at Felix on Saturday night, where the space quickly swelled to fill its 36-seat capacity. The opening followed a soft launch on Thursday and Friday for nightlife industry insiders, friends and family that was similarly well attended.
No sign names the business; instead, a neon lucky cat glows above the doorway. Black-and-white Prohibition-era images, reworked by local artist Tod the Bunny, line the stairway down to the opulent drinking den.
What awaits is a feast of the senses and a textural delight. The intimate space holds chartreuse-colored booths, tables inlaid with mahjong pieces and glossy framed collages by Eryn Kimura. Atmospheric lighting comes from red votive candles, miniature crystal chandeliers and a neon sign with Chinese characters.
Bartender Wat Zhuo crafts cocktails that range in price from $16 to $18 with Vietnamese and Chinese influences, including ingredients such as lychee, yuzu and chrysanthemum. The bar also serves up highballs, shooters, beer and wine. Tom yum Chex mix and shrimp chips are the only snacks served at the bar—if you’re hungry, head upstairs to the restaurant.
The menu shines with its more spirit-forward options, like the Cocchigroni (a take on a Negroni that includes Cocchi Americano and Velvet Falernum) and the Felix Swizzle (a delightful concoction that includes both green and yellow chartreuse, Malibu rum and cardamom).
But some of the other cocktail offerings, like the Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue and the Bohemian Rhapsody, get lost in the fruitiness of lychee or crème de cassis.
When the beloved Bodega Bistro closed in 2017, there was always a plan to bring it back. Matt Ho’s family’s restaurant opened in the new space as Bodega SF in 2022—and then added their new underground drinking den in the restaurant’s basement.
Julie Zigoris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org