San Francisco Profiles – San Francisco’s North Beach with Laurie
North Beach is an area of San Francisco that I always seem to be driving through and not actually stopping in. It's a shame because besides the old-school Italian food and cafe scene (and Chinese as well, as Chinatown is on its border) it has amazing literary history. The Beatnik poets and City Lights Bookstore history alone is fascinating.
It's one of the reasons I really love doing this San Francisco Profiles series, hearing the best spots from the locals that live in the neighborhood allows you (and me) to get to the good stuff faster. And that's why I love interviewing people like Laurie, a travel blogger who has lived in San Francisco for a decade and blogs at Laurie's World and tweets at the aptly-names SFTravelGirl.
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So now that I have shared her creds, let's…
 Favorite thing about North Beach.
I love the history of this small neighborhood, from the Gold Rush and Barbary Coast era to The Beats and Italian immigrants, the historic roots of North Beach are deep.
 Least favorite thing about North Beach.
Although Broadway and the strip clubs are part of North Beach history too, it does sometimes bring the wrong element to the neighborhood.
 What differentiates your neighborhood, North Beach from all the other parts of the city?
There are no chain-type places in North Beach, so no Starbucks or Subway sandwich shops. Keeps the neighborhood feel of North Beach alive and well.
 Favorite coffee spot in North Beach.
Cafe Treiste (609 Vallejo St, b/t Grant Ave & Columbus Ave), great coffee and excellent people watching. Francis Ford Coppola wrote some of The Godfather in this cafe, it's a hang out for a lot of locals and they sometimes have live music.
 Favorite spot for drinks.
There are so many good places, its hard to decide. 15 Romolo (15 Romolo Pl, b/t Broadway St & Fresno St) has the best mixologists behind the bar. They make tasty citrus-inspired drinks and a mean Manhattan.
 Favorite local hangout.
Tony Nik's (1534 Stockton St, b/t Columbus Ave & Green St) for a casual cocktail and Golden boy for quick(and cheap) pizza fix.
 Favorite breakfast spot.
San Franciscans take brunch pretty seriously. 🙂 My favorite spot is Cafe Delucchi (b/t Union St & Green St), I could eat their Polenta Gorgonzola every day, creamy polenta with poached egg and Gorgonzola cheese–heaven.
 Favorite lunch spot.
One of my favorite things to do is go to Molinari's Delicatessen (373 Columbus Ave, b/t Vallejo St & Grant Ave) , pick my bread, get the North Beach special (prosciutto with cheese and peppers) and go to Washington Square sit on a park bench eat my sandwich while people watching.
 Favorite dinner spot.
You might find me at the bar at Pantarei (b/t Vallejo St & Green St ), eating a salad and one of their delicious flatbreads, and drinking a glass of wine while watching a soccer game. Sodinis is my favorite though, small place, fresh pasta and some Frank Sinatra music in the background.
 One thing you always do/spot you always take friends from out of town to do/see.
If we can take the long wait, I'll take them to Tony's Pizza (1570 Stockton St, at Union St) then a cocktail in the neighborhood. If they are up to it, we take a short hike up to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill for a panoramic view of the city.
Before moving to North Beach I never hung out here, but now that I live here I love it. The parrots on Telegraph Hill, the food, the art, the awesome people, the proximity to a lot of other good places. Perfect place to be.
Check out Laurie's blog for additional San Francisco content.
Here are other great spots in San Francisco's North Beach:
EAT – Breakfast/Brunch:
> dell’uva (565 Green St, b/t Columbus Ave & Jasper Pl) $15 bottomless mimosas, amazing Bruschetta.
> Café deStijl (1 Union St, at Front St) great breakfast burritos.
> Park Tavern (1652 Stockton St, b/t Union St & Filbert St) avocado toast or fried duck egg sandwich.
EAT – LUNCH:
> The Square Bar & Kitchen (1707 Powell St, b/t Union St & Columbus Ave) tavern fare, great cheeseburger, and baby back ribs.
> Il Casaro Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar (348 Columbus Ave, b/t Vallejo St & Grant Ave) Naples style wood-burning pizza.
> Kennedy's Irish Pub & Curry House (1040 Columbus Ave, b/t Chestnut St & Houston St) Guinness and samosas.
> Liguria Bakery (1700 Stockton St, at Filbert St) great focaccia, stick with the plain, pay in cash.
> Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Café (566 Columbus Ave, b/t Union St & Green St) Mario's meatball sandwich, great veggie option too – grilled eggplant with feta and arugula.
> Naked Lunch (504 Broadway, b/t Romolo Pl & Kearny St) delicious chicken sandwich.
> Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza & Slice House (1570 Stockton St, at Union St) a NB institution.
EAT – DINNER:
> Original Joe's (601 Union St, b/t Columbus Ave & Stockton St) comfort Italian food and old school décor at its finest.
> Sotto Mare (552 Green St, b/t Columbus Ave & Stockton St) seafood including SF classic cioppino.
> Coi (373 Broadway, b/t Bartol St & Osgood Pl) incredible farmed and foraged foods.
> Don Pistro (510 Union St, b/t Bannam Pl & Grant Ave) elevated Mexican street food.
> Nizario's Pizza (279 Columbus Ave, b/t Broadway St & Jack Kerouac Aly) get the California Special (spinach, pesto, feta cheese, chicken.
> Park Tavern (1652 Stockton St, b/t Union St & Filbert St) the Marlowe Burger (ground lamb and beef with bacon, shredded lettuce, cheddar cheese, caramelized onion, and horseradish aioli), do not miss it!
> Tosca Café (242 Columbus Ave, b/t Jack Kerouac Aly & Saroyan Pl) amazing roasted chicken (and crabs when in season). Good pasta too.
> Trattoria Contadina (1800 Mason St, b/t Union St & Kent St) damn fantastic gnocchi. Pasta is king here, delicious fusilli with prosciutto and chicken called the “Pavarotti.”
> È Tutto Qua (270 Columbus Ave, b/t Broadway St & Jack Kerouac Aly) from scratch Roman dishes.
> Gelateria Naia (520 Columbus Ave, b/t Union St & Green St) small-batch handmade gelato.
> Park Tavern (1652 Stockton St., b/t Union St & Filbert S) get the birthday cake even when its not your birthday!
> Victoria Pastry Company (700 Filbert, b/t Columbus Ave & Powell St) the Princess Cake with custard and crème, to die for
> XOX Truffles (754 Columbus Ave, b/t Scotland St & Greenwich St) truffles sure, but go for the amazing hot chocolate.
DRINK – Bars:
> Bamboo Hut (479 Broadway, b/t Kearny St & Rowland S) Tiki joint with Polynesian statues and coconut drinks.
> Church Key (1402 Grant Ave, b/t Green St & Union St) beer bar, rotating taps, and huge bottled beer list.
> Columbus Café (562 Green St., b/t Bannam Pl & Columbus Ave) 2-for-1 draft beers between 4 pm and 8 pm 7 days a week.
> Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Café (12 William Saroyan Pl) old school bar.
> The Saloon (1232 Grant Ave, b/t Broadway St & Fresno St) opened in 1861, ancient sailor bar.
> 101 Music (414 Grant Ave, b/t Union St & Green St) rare recordings, old vinyl, and LPs.
> Cykel (548 Union St, b/t Jasper Pl & Cadell Pl) local bike shop.
> Goorin Bros. Hat Shop (1612 Stockton St. b/t Union St & Filbert St) old school hat shop, hard to leave with just one!
> Little Vine (1541 Grant Ave, at Nobles Aly) gourmet grocery store
> Lola of North Beach (1415 Grant Ave, b/t Green St & Union St) cute card store.
> Proper Fox (552 Columbus Ave, b/t Union St & Green St) women's apparel and accessories.
> Therapy (1445 Grant Ave, b/t Green St & Union St) whimsical clothes, accessories, and books.
THINGS TO DO:
> Bimbo’s 365 Club (1025 Columbus Ave, b/t Taylor St & Chestnut St) one of the best music venues in SF.
> If you come in June, don't miss the annual North Beach Festival, its a doozy!
> Washington Square Inn (1660 Stockton St. b/t Union St & Filbert St) cozy 15-room bed and breakfast.
> SW Hotel (615 Broadway b/t Stockton St. & Grant Ave) clean, lost-cost, free WiFi.
> Hotel Boheme (444 Columbus Ave b/t Green St & Vallejo St.) Fun, funky, art deco.
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
Here are other posts and guides from a few other local sources.
> Sally's Place – San Francisco's North Beach
> Red Tricycle – A Guide to SF's North Beach with Kids
> Airbnb has a great guide for North Beach that includes some of their locations to rent. [New to Airbnb? Use this link to sign up and get $25 for your first stay.]
How about you? Do you have any North Beach additions? Have you been to this area of San Francisco? Did you find this post helpful for a future trip?
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I’ve been wanting to eat at sotto mare! all my friends tell me it’s amazing! 🙂
I’ve eaten at a few of the places listed above, including Panta Rei, but one place is definitely missing and that is the Italian restaurant named È Tutto Qua (It’s All Here). Fabulous food and the waiters are so entertaining and funny! Can’t wait to get back to SF and visit North Beach!
@Christina, nice call. I’ve added. I’ve actually eaten there and it is lovely. A lot of these spots straddle Chinatown and Telegraph Hill so officially they are not in North Beach (although I disagree!).
I have yet to go to San Fran but I heard nothing but wonderful things. I want to move to Cali but to LA…but I would definitely love to do roadtrips there. Look at all the places to eat and have fun great list about North Beach!
@Kiwi, SF has a ton of things to offer, you’d love it!
I love those houses whenever I see them on tv I know it has something to do with San Fran. That pizza looks glorious I just want to see that bridge and take a cool picture with it. One day when I get over my fear of planes I will get to the other side of the US
@Kita, road trip!
I love SF! Looks like you found some awesome spots. It’s on my list of places I need to visit now that I’m an adult! LOL I was lucky enough to go in high school, but haven’t been back. So much fun. And now I want pizza! Looks like you had a blast!
@Brea, you should definitely come back, as an adult you’d love it!
That Polenta Gorgonzola looks absolutely delicious. I have never been to San Francisco, but I’ have seen this beautiful place in films and photos. I would love to visit it with my family one day.
@Dogsville, that’s right SF is featured in a lot of shows so it is easy to visit virtually! I hope you get to visit for “real” one day.
I think it’s a lovely idea to highlight the smaller, lesser-traveled neighborhoods that deserve to be known. Now, if only we could have such “profiles” made for a lot of other major cities… As long as they don’t get TOO overrun with tourists 😉
@Miriam, glad you enjoyed getting to know this little corner of SF, and I agree, it is great to learn local secrets, but there is always the fear that too many people will figure it out!
Did you say, no chains? I didn’t think it was possible for a neighborhood to be free of chain stores and restaurants. You better keep this on the down low or Starbucks will be rolling a latte machine down the street very shortly! This looks like a great spot to visit. Thanks for all of the recommendations!
@Kelly, yep, there are still s couple of neighborhoods in SF without chains, they are few and far between, but they are there and pretty special.
That polenta looks awesome. Everything looked beautiful in San Fran. I would visit the Full House House 🙂
Okay, I think I need to visit! And can I say… That pizza looks amazing! And I think I need to have a slice of that! I never travel and its one of those things I would love to do. There are so many amazing places I would love to get a glimpse of. I love that there are no chain stores. Now granted I love my chain shops, but i love that its all family owned type of businesses. Its a homey feeling! =D Thank you for sharing!
@Amanda, I hope you do get a chance to get here one day and do some amazing exploring!
What a fantastic neighborhood! If were lucky enough to live in San Francisco, I’d be heading to Cafe Treiste immediately to see if it inspires me to actually finish (or at least make some really great headway on) my novel. 😉
@Katie, if any neighborhood should inspire you it should be North Beach, it has definitely inspired and produced many literary giants!
San Francisco has always been one of my most favorite city and while I’ve only been there once I love learning even more about it! I would love to return someday and spend some extended time there are maybe move there later on down the road. I pinned this and really appreciate the great tips!
@Rena, so glad you enjoyed your initial visit and I know you would absolutely love more trips here!
Oh that creamy polenta with the poached egg looks AMAZING!! I don’t think I’ve ever been to North Beach but I have only been to San Francisco once for my cousin’s wedding so there wasn’t much site seeing. It sounds like a lovely neighborhood with lots of charm!
North Beach sounds like such a quaint and lovely neighborhood! I’ve only been to San Francisco once and I’m pretty sure I did not make it to that area. I was there for a cousin’s wedding and we didn’t do much site seeing.
San Francisco is on my list of places to visit soon. I like the fact that there are no chains that have infiltrated the North Beach area – that must create a nice atmosphere of local gems. I wouldn’t mind visiting Cafe Treiste if I ever get to the city.