Burning Man meets steam punk at Twitter’s neighbor Urban Pharm

October 11, 2017
Mason Trinca
Urban Pharm photographed in San Francisco, Calif. Saturday, August 5, 2017.
SOURCE: Mason Trinca

Urban Pharm

San Francisco, Calif.

Overall Score: 3.8 out of 5 stars

Price: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Selection: 4 out of 5 stars

Ambiance: 4.3 out of 5 stars

Service: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Bottom line: A live DJ gives Urban Pharm a clubby feel, but without THC testing, you don't know exactly what you're getting.

[How our star system works: ⭑ – failing; ⭑⭑ -- sub-par; ⭑⭑⭑ – average; ⭑⭑⭑⭑ – above average; ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑ – Excellent!]

The seven stools at San Francisco’s premier hash lounge, Urban Pharm, don’t face a bar or window: they face a black wall. People sit after dabbing (taking water-filtered inhales of pot extract vapor) and look at their phones. There’s a couch facing the center of the room; its occupants on my visit looked at their computers AND their phones. Welcome to cannabis clubbing in San Francisco’s tech triangle.

Just down the block from the Twitter building on 10th St., Urban Pharm is built like a whimsical steampunk nightclub, with a metal pig flying above you, gatling gun light fixtures and wrought iron accents. A live DJ makes it a pleasant place to chill after a dab, spending quality time with your Instagram feed. There's not much distracting chatter, though one man did cough for several minutes. I found, after dabbing a super-maximum strength concentrate, I could ignore him.

Bud trimmer Ausar Allah-El works on a bud at Butterbrand Farms on August 18, 2017, in San Francisco, Calif.
Liz Hafalia
Customers line up at the Urban Pharm’s dispensary area in San Francisco, Calif. Saturday, August 5, 2017.

What I also ignored was the sales pitch of the guy behind the dab bar — similar to a regular bar, but instead of serving beer, cocktails or shot, they serve up small “dabs” of extract. I got my dab as a free sample from a sales rep of a concentrate company, Jetty, who was visiting UP that day. That’s why I know how much of cannabis’ main active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was in it: UP wasn’t selling it. About every product UP was selling, during my two visits, I know nothing but the brand names.

UP has many strengths. It’s a fun place, and for takeout customers it seems value-oriented, with no eighth-ounces of cannabis flower buds over $55 and many at $30. It’s open late seven days a week. It offers a full range of products, including seeds, vaporizers, topicals, etc. Normally I'm a flower guy, and UP had 25 on my last visit. UP seems particularly strong in drinks -- infused coffee was one of 67 edibles.

The downside is the information blackout. None of the flowers list THC percentages, much less terpenes. And if you care about provenance, UP isn't for you. I asked where one outdoor strain came from. The staffer was coy.

"It's from here," he said. I said, "It's outdoor, it can't be from here." He smiled. "No. But not far."

That's as much as I got.

Midori Mel blows vapor after using the dab rig at Urban Pharm in San Francisco, Calif. Saturday, August 5, 2017.
Mason Trinca
Midori Mel blows vapor after using the dab rig at Urban Pharm in San Francisco, Calif. Saturday, August 5, 2017.

On the upside, when I told him what I was looking for -- a moderate-THC, sativa-dominant blend -- he reached not for the pricey jars on the top shelf, but to the bottom. He recommended African Pepper ($30 for an eighth.) But African Pepper turned out to be a little weaker than I prefer. I wanted a wine, but got a wine cooler.

I don’t know if that would happen with the dabs. You could really have a designer high if you knew what you were getting. For a single dab, there are four levels: Bronze ($5), Silver ($7), Gold ($10) and Platinum ($15). A double (a “glob”) is slightly more than twice the price. A “power boost” is another $5 to $10; and a “crystalline” add-on is $12 for cannabidiol, or $14 for the acid form of THC. Crystalline is a term for highly potent form of hash that looks like crystals.

When I asked about potency, the dab bar guy went into a long spiel about testing, but eventually admitted he didn’t have any numbers at all. He did make the bronze level sound so unappealing (“It’s not made from the best plants, or the best parts of the plant, and it’s not extracted in the best way.”) that I didn’t want to dab anything at all, which was how I wound up wandering away to the free sample from the Jetty sales rep. That guy praised UP, saying, "I've worked in a lot of clubs, and this one cares about quality."

Julie Losch, left, and Cole Reed use dab rigs at the Express Counter at Urban Pharm in San Francisco, Calif. Saturday, August 5, 2017.
Mason Trinca
Julie Losch, left, and Cole Reed use dab rigs at the Express Counter at Urban Pharm in San Francisco, Calif. Saturday, August 5, 2017.

Joining up is easy enough. I brought my actual doctor's note but didn't need it; the card sufficed. New members who spend at least $20 get a free gift; in my case, it was a top-shelf hybrid gram, worth $18.

UP is cash-only but there is an ATM on the premises ($3 fee). They also have an innovative idea in the one all-gender restroom: the walls are one large chalkboard, with chalk. If you have a brilliant thought at the dab bar there's a place to record it, with a lifespan for it that's probably appropriate.

Urban Pharm

122 10th St. (at Mission), San Francisco
(415) 872-9488

Online menu: Yes (but not complete)
Online ordering: I couldn't figure out how to do it
Takeout: Yes
Delivery: No, but they do offer express pickup
Hours: 8 a.m. - 10 p.m. 7 days a week
Senior discount: 10%
Veterans discount: 10%
New customer discount: Yes (freebie)
Specials: Buy one, get one free every day of different items
Established: 2015
Lounge/on-site consumption: Yes
What to buy: Concentrates for the dab bar; drinkables

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