Travel Guides for Un-tourists


The Essential Guide to North Beach

by Fernanda DeSouza

posted on October 28, 2017

Photo Courtesy: peeterv

North Beach is more than just a cozy neighborhood situated along the San Francisco Bay. As you amble down its quiet streets, you'll discover that its Italian roots run deep. Not to mention, North Beach was the playground for Jack Kerouac and his band of Beatniks and is home to one of the city's most notable landmarks, Coit Tower. After you've enjoyed sprawling views of the Bay Area from atop the 210-foot tower, come back down to the ground to relish in what this neighborhood does best: food. Go on a tour of Italy without leaving the West Coast as you taste nonna-style dishes, sip creative cocktails at sultry watering holes, or take a stab at the newer non-Italian establishments making a name for themselves in the neighborhood. Then enter a food coma as you lay out on the luscious grassy area of Washington Square Park and regret nothing.

Photo Courtesy: johnbam

If you stop by Mama's after 8 a.m., you'll see a line snaking around the block. This walk-in only morning spot is a must for any brunch enthusiast. Experience the diner vibe as you watch eggs poaching while waiting in line to order at the counter.

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Monte Cristo, Cranberry-Orange French toast

Photo Courtesy: Original Joe's

Old-school service is the pull at Original Joe’s where suit-jacketed waiters know the regulars by name. They offer generous helpings of Italian-American classics—the Iceberg wedge is satisfying enough for dinner, as is the meatball appetizer.

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Caesar salad, gnocchi, chicken marsala, steamed mussels, Joe’s martini

Photo Courtesy: tonyspizza415

World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani shows off his skills at this popular spot, where he serves 12 regional pizza styles including his signature California style. Pizza's not the only attraction though: grab a booth and try an original cocktail.

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Prosciutto di parma coccoli, coal-fired New Yorker pizza, pasta genovese

Photo Courtesy: tyinsf

Almost 40 years in business means this focaccia pizza spot -- specializing in square slices -- is doing something right. Locals flock to this sticker-covered pizzeria where simple slices like cheese and pepperoni appeal to night-owls and 9-to-5ers.

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Clam and garlic slice, sausage slice, cheese sheet

Photo Courtesy: donpistossf

Don Pistos might sound like it serves Italian-American fare, but this beachy Mexican place does anything but. From knockout tacos and bottomless margaritas to an unmarked building and oysters on the half shell, this spot is a constant fiesta.

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Chips and salsa, all the tacos, pork tamales with poached eggs

Photo Courtesy: leebdiving

The Saloon, dubbed San Francisco's oldest bar, boasts a more than 150-year-old track record. Cheap drinks and live music every night make this spot a true gem, not to mention all the old-timey memorabilia and photos hanging around the joint.

Photo Courtesy: 15romolo

In the mood for cocktails or Basque-influenced fare? Venture to this classic space, which highlights sherry flights, small plates (think succulent pork belly and paella), and sangria made from scratch--then grab your drink and locate the jukebox.

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Romolo Toddy, Paper Doll, chicken & sausage paella

Photo Courtesy: jayunlee

Satisfying palates young and old since the 90s, this sleek Asian spot is known for its ever-changing menu showcasing fresh, quality ingredients. Expect Japanese-inspired flavor profiles, along with playful dishes like an ahi BLT.

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Miso black cod, warm wasabi house noodles, sesame soy-glazed king salmon

Photo Courtesy: scotchco

For a fun night out, head to this lively spot for a few rounds of pool followed by drinks and some of SF's best sandwiches. The heated outdoor patio is ideal for chilly nights, and on Sundays, be sure to catch the Asian "Chao Mien" pop-up menu.

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Mary's Farm fried chicken sandwich, foie gras torchon sandwich, Naked Lunch cheeseburger

Photo Courtesy: parktavernsf

Whether you're in the mood to lounge in the sun with a crisp cocktail or sip an old world Cabernet away from the elements, Park Tavern has you covered with its modern classic decor and rustic-chic fare, from market veggies to beef fat fries.

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Wagyu beef jerky, Marlowe burger, marinated beets

Photo Courtesy: sax_pharack

Despite its convoluted and slightly misleading name, Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe is surprisingly simple. The quaint bistro-like setup is perfect for a whole afternoon of people-watching while you take in the aroma of fresh, house-made focaccia.

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Meatball sandwich, mushroom pizza, pesto panini

Photo Courtesy: _theflavor

With a storied past steeped in San Francisco history, Sotto Mare is a favorite of both tourists and longtime regulars. The snug interior has a coastal diner vibe, and the menu is reminiscent of smiling Italian nonnas from seaside villas.

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West coast oysters, mussels, clam chowder

Photo Courtesy: chubbynoodlesf

Chubby Noodle's interior isn't flashy—save for a Kabuki mural splashed across the ceiling. So get theatrical with greasy Asian-American grub and West Coast hip hop, all of which brings a boisterous, boozy edge to a modest spot.

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Chubby fried chicken, pork ribs, spicy garlic noodles

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