Barbary Coast dispensary and consumption lounge review
The Grass Agency is on a mission. Over the course of the next few months, we’ll roam San Francisco's notoriously twisted streets in search of the best cannabis dispensaries, experiences, and products. We’ll visit the city’s 30-plus adult use dispensaries and rate them based on service, selection, style, and ethics. We’re holding our final critiques for the first edition of The Grass Guide, but, in the meantime, you can expect to see snapshots and dispatches from our fantastic voyage right here.
Our first stop on this wild weed tour is Barbary Coast, one of nine dispensaries in San Francisco with an onsite consumption lounge. Yup! That means you can buy your trees and smoke them here, too! A novel concept, we know. This speakeasy-style outpost takes its name from the once lawless SF entertainment district (itself named after Africa’s Barbary Coast), a hotbed of jazz, prostitution, and booze (none of which are on order at this Barbary Coast). Located between Civic Center and SOMA, the lounge serves as a brief retreat from a chaotic neighborhood, simultaneously the epicenter of the city’s housing crisis and home to the tech giants that created it.
We made our way across the Bay from Oakland on a Thursday just before noon, barely beating the lunch rush. We rolled up to the register with zero wait, but the line quickly stacked up with office workers in a hurry to get baked and get back to work. Word of warning: Barbary Coast’s dab bar is stuffed with suits starting at 12PM sharp on weekdays.
Take a walk around San Francisco and you’re likely to catch a whiff of reefer in the air, but it’s still technically illegal to consume cannabis on the streets and most buildings prohibit smoking or vaping of any kind. As a result, onsite consumption lounges have proven invaluable for travelers and day trippers. At Barbary Coast the term “lounge” may be a bit of an overstatement, though. Tables and booths come equipped with ashtrays and other accessories upon request, but they also come with a 30-minute timer. During off-peak hours you can get away with lingering a bit longer, but there’s a strict half-hour cutoff when it’s busy.
It may not be a lounge in the true sense of the word, but Barbary Coast is a welcome and compliant hideaway from the hectic activity of downtown. And it looks pretty damn good too. In line with its name, the lounge and dispensary are going hard on the fashionable outlaw aesthetic. The speakeasy vibes are strong here, serving as a not-so-subtle nod to ongoing cannabis prohibition around the world.
Flocked red wallpaper and hardwood panelling dominant the space. The lounge is lined with tufted maroon leather couches and the dab bar features 420-friendly stained glass accents. The interior is showing a bit of wear and some elements just don’t work (hello, dust-covered silk roses), but Barbary Coast wins points for overall aesthetic and location. It’s just steps from BART and Muni and minutes from Union Square, Civic Center, Yerba Buena, and the Financial District.
The space is comfortable and unpretentious with just enough style to stand out. Of course, none of that matters if the service stinks. Thankfully, the good vibes run deep here. We got a front-row seat to an impromptu dance party of one before checking in at the front desk. The good times rolled from there.
“That’s how you know the product works,” our host joked.
Speaking of product, Barbary Coast has a solid selection of flower, edibles, tinctures, pre-rolls, and extracts from some of California’s finest, like The Cookie Co., Sherbinskis, Flow Kana, and Madrone. According to its website, all of Barbary Coast’s products are lab-tested by Pure Analytics to make sure they’re free of mold, pesticides, and other contaminants.
We were looking for something high in THC with citrus notes, so our budtender turned us onto North Country Pharms Triangle Mints. We always like to see and smell our weed before we throw down, and this time we didn’t have to ask. She was ready, sample jars in-hand, for a side-by-side bud comparison. We snagged an eighth of Triangle Mints, a tin of special edition, pride-themed Plus gummies, and a box of huckleberry-flavored WYLD gummies (a new edition out of Portland). Then it was on to the lounge to blaze the ridiculously fruity strawberry-infused Cavi Cone from Caviar Gold. The flavor is overwhelming for a daily smoker, but it delivered on the THC. There’s a reason they market the Cavi Cone as the “world’s strongest pre-roll.”
Time flies when you’re getting high, and before we knew it, our’s was up. Ultimately, Barbary Coast is more fast food than fine dining in terms of turnaround, so don’t get too comfortable and know your limits. Downtown San Francisco is a lot to take in when you’re sober; when you’re lit it can feel like a full on assault. The cold reality of the city smacks you right in the face when you step outside Barbary Coast’s warm interior. Multimillionaires on one-wheel skateboards and tourists on ride-share scooters fly by the city’s disenfranchised, oblivious to their involvement in a massive and devastating housing crisis.
It’s a sad reality and Barbary Coast is a welcome escape, if only for 30 minutes.