SAN FRANCISCO — They are being blamed for creating a housing crisis, shoving generations of families out of their long-time neighborhoods, and causing income disparities in this once-upon-a-time daisy-scented city that long thrived as a haven for free spirits, artists, an impressive gay community, and a lot of wonderfully self-professed weirdos.
But on this particular night I blamed them for getting me so drunk I could barely open the Uber app on my phone.
I’m referring to the Bros. This invasive species in San Francisco — generally male and in his 20s or early 30s — has been spreading faster than Asian carp in the Mississippi River. The Bros I encountered here have a lot in common with the Asian carp. They drink like fish.
As companies such as Google, Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, Yahoo, Dropbox, LinkedIn, and dozens more move into the Bay Area, so do the Brogrammers. Young and flush with techie cash, the Bros have turned parts of San Francisco into their party playground. It’s a Brovasion.
I came to immerse myself in Bro culture, which was impossible to miss. If you come here for the Super Bowl, you’ll see them everywhere from the sterile white environs of the local automated quinoa cafeteria to the dankest of dive bars.
“There’s definitely a large contingent of young, 20-something males that roll straight out of college into perk-heavy tech jobs that are incredibly parallel to the college setting from which they came — dining halls for all three meals, rec rooms, and cookie cutter apartments filled with people very much like themselves,” said artist and San Francisco resident Hannah Rothstein who is working on a series of Bro portraits. “Socio-economic diversity is definitely being pushed out of the city.”
You may have gathered that these fellows aren’t so popular in certain circles. The Brolympics (cross my heart it’s a real thing) left Fort Mason, often called Frat Mason, in tatters last spring, and there was a YouTube clip that went viral of a group of Dropbox dudes arguing with some kids over who had the right to use a community soccer field. If you’d like a full backstory, I urge you to watch the HBO documentary “San Francisco 2.0.”
These foster frat dudes will be by your side and ready to tear it up like a bunch of Brohan the Brobarians come Super Bowl weekend. I’m unable to stop the Bro portmanteaus, so please humor me friends.
I confined most of my Bro research to the Marina District, a neighborhood well known for accommodating these good time Charlie and Charlenes. Female Bros are thankfully not called Bras. They’re referred to as Marina Girls. Use it sparingly, I’m told the term is falling out of favor.
On a Friday night I surveyed the Marina District with a list of bars in hand. Instead of following the list, I followed the sound of the Bros, who were whooping it up in a place called Bar None.
I soon found out that Bar None is famous for its beer pong tables, which are actually sort of sad looking folding tables covered with plastic cups.
I think I was studying the game a bit too intensely because I heard someone say “How ’bout it man. You wanna go?” He was talking to me.
For research purposes only I picked up a ping pong ball and tried my best. I instinctively knew this was a terrible idea. I was playing with a gang of Bros from a company that had just scored a healthy round of venture capital and I could tell from their devil-may-care consumption of firewater that I should probably get my tail feather out while I still could still stay vertical. Naturally I stayed.
The rest of the night was a blur with round after round of shots. They drank something called Fernet, a spirit which tastes like an industrial strength mouthwash that you would administer to a horse with a particularly robust case of halitosis.
When they deemed the number of women insufficient at one bar, we went to others with names like Palm House, Monaghan’s, the Tipsy Pig, and the Dorian. I managed to get back to my hotel and woke up the next morning fully dressed with my contact lenses still in my eyes, a throbbing headache, some strange business cards in my pocket, and a text on my phone that read, “Remember, dinner at 9 p.m. at Marengo!”
Blimey, had I committed to another night of partying?
Let me stop here to point out that not all Bros and Brogrammers spend their Friday nights in their Chubbies (official shorts of the San Francisco Bro) swarming bars and creating a window-rattling vociferation. Even my newfound friends appeared much tamer the second night.
“Don’t think that San Francisco is now just a city filled with party dudes,” my city bike guide told me Saturday morning while I tried to keep up with him on my personal Tour de Hangover. “There’s still so many amazing things about this city. Those guys are just part of the mix now.”
He was right about amazing things. The food alone left me speechless, primarily because I never stopped eating long enough to talk. I found perfect almond croissants at Tartine, liquid nitrogen-frozen ice cream at Smitten, and incredible burritos at Papalote. This is such a foodie town that people line up for $4 artisanal toast.
The $4 toast created such a hue and cry that it was deemed the result of the “bougie” (why is that word always used incorrectly?) tech industry ruining San Francisco. For the record, the toast I tried at the Mill was pretty good. Maybe not $4 good, but I didn’t get the feeling that the slices of bread I was consuming were signaling the end of the city.
To their credit, the Bros are not clueless about their impact here, and along with the ill-fated Brolympics, they hold a wink-and-nod contest called Mr. Marina. It’s sort of like a Bro beauty pageant with proceeds going to charity.
“The stereotype that’s attached to the neighborhood is a pretty funny one to play around with,” said Brianna Haag, the founder of Mr. Marina. “A lot of the people who live here are very smart, very driven, and very awesome individuals. Whether you embody the stereotype or you don’t, it’s something that everyone’s on the same page as being a really funny joke. We’re playing up on that joke and using it to create a really cool event.”
Having somewhat sobered up after a day of biking and ibuprofen, I showed up to meet my entourage of bros Saturday night at Marengo. Even before I arrived they were drinking that dastardly horse mouthwash again. A few were even sporting their Chubbies (I’ll kindly remind you that’s a brand name of shorts). I joined them for a round, but as much as I liked their company, I decided it was time to part ways. I couldn’t take another night of alcohol poisoning. More importantly I needed to get up early to try the gingerbread pancakes at Zazie the next morning.