North Beach, the land of gelato, pasta and darn good pizza. There are a few old establishments like The Saloon, City Lights and Caffe Trieste that are institutions in North Beach but a few beloved places have disappeared in my little hood. In the past couple of months Dell’uva, where I imbibed on quite a few glasses of happy hour wine and had countless first dates, closed down (replaced with the JUST opened Belle Cora, a wine bar and craft beer cafe), Cafe Divine (replaced with Acquolina), Bocce Cafe (to be replaced with Barbary Coast, a bar and gastropub and they are touting it will have the longest bar in North Beach) and after 50 years of fun times and loyal service Capp’s Corner turned off the lights for good.
As a resident of North Beach/Telegraph Hill for seven years, I have a few favorite places that hopefully won’t close down any time soon. Keep reading and next time you are in the area check them out for yourself.
1, Panta Rei–431 Columbus Avenue. This is a delightful place to sit outside, order a prosciutto panini, a glass of prosecco and settle in for some good people watching. Since it is on the main drag of Columbus Avenue it might get a little loud so the other option is to eat at the bar and listen to the banter of mostly Italian(and quite beautiful) staff as they have good-natured arguments over love, life and soccer. The clientele is a fun mix of locals and tourists so chances of striking up a lively conversation is pretty good. I had my birthday celebration at Panta Rei last year and although I haven’t tasted all of the tiramisus in North Beach I will say theirs might be the best. This is one of my favorite places because of the wonderful staff, great food and convenient location. You can also cross the street and get some sweets at Z. Cioccolato and then go to Lola of North Beach for some fun San Francisco themed gifts.
2. Cornology–522 Columbus Avenue. When one thinks of North Beach, chances are popcorn is not the first thing that comes to mind but Cornology is quickly becoming a local favorite. They have eleven different flavors of popcorn and three sizes. It is popped at the store so it’s very fresh. They can vacuum pack your bag for later consumption if you have the will power, or you can stuff your face while you stroll around the neighborhood. Be careful, the pigeons will follow you. I am addicted to the Double Cheddar and Truffle Parmesan but will be trying the Chocolate Drizzle on my next visit. They use organic, non-GMO corn. The fresh taste and unique flavors are addicting–yes I can admit it, I am a popcorn addict and Cornology is my supplier. Join in the addiction, you know you want to.
3. Savoy Tivoli – 1434 Grant Avenue. The Savoy has been around since 1907 and is one of two places in North Beach that has an open air front patio bar. The other being Naked Lunch, formerly the notorious and very popular Enrico’s. This use to be my go to place for jazz if I wanted to have a lazy Saturday afternoon–I could just walk down the hill. For the past year or two The Savoy has been going through some changes with noise ordinance issues but hopefully it can be straightened out and they can bring back their jazz schedule. With a pool table, photo booth and dance music they do bring in the club crowd on the weekends but on the sporadic weeknights that they are open, I like to stop by for a superbly made very dirty martini with three olives.
4. Hole in the Wall–524 Union Street. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘pop-up’. Hole in the Wall serves pour over coffee and loose leaf tea to the good citizens of North Beach and its many parched and under caffeinated visitors, all from a hole in the wall. They open at 7am during the week and 8am on the weekends(closing times vary). They also have Italian soda and coconut water. Patrons can order beverages to go or have a seat on one of the three stools and hang for a while. It’s a unique way to enjoy a drink and odds are you won’t have to wait in too long of a line.
5. Little Library–Filbert Street between Stockton and Kearny. I know that this isn’t a restaurant or bar but being a bibliomaniac this is my most favorite thing in North Beach. Supplied by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library the Little Library is a free public book nook. You take a book and leave a book. One day there might be a practically new copy of Post Modern American Poetry with prose from Allen Ginsberg, local legend Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jack Kerouac and in its place you could leave Ms. Bossypants by Tina Fey, that you had every intention of reading but just didn’t get to. I’ve walked by it quite a few times and it’s always filled with different books so looks like people are using it. Yay for the literati!! I would love to see more of these in the city. My one hope is that it doesn’t get vandalized or stolen.
As you can see, North Beach is not all strip clubs and tourist clogged streets. If you fan out and wander down some side streets and outer areas past Columbus and Broadway you will find some unique art galleries, fun stores, restaurants and bars. If you are lucky you’ll hear the squawks of the charming and infamous Parrots of Telegraph Hill.