Insider's Guide to North Beach

  • 01 of 09

    The Low Down

    Deemed San Francisco’s Little Italy, North Beach is full of pizza, pasta, and lots of coffee. It’s also steeped in history, from the Beatniks to labor workers. 

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  • 02 of 09

    Location

     To get here, you’re going to have climb—North Beach is steeped in hills. But it’s not hard to find, just head to the northeast most corner of the city. 

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  • 03 of 09

    History

     Originally, the San Francisco shoreline only extended to the corner of Taylor and Francisco Streets. North Beach was just that—a beach that was filled in during the late 19th century. During the 1950s, the Beat poets moved to town. Lawrence Ferlinghetti opened up shop at City Lights Bookstore and published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, which started an uproar in the city’s more conservative community. 

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  • 04 of 09

    EAT: Breakfast

    ••• Olivia V. via Yelp

    If you’re willing to brave a line, head to Mama’s on Washington. The specialty is omelets, like the Washington Square with spicy sausage, bell peppers, and hot pepper jack cheese or the Northwest with salmon and grilled leeks. But there are also five different versions of French toast if that strikes your fancy. Coffee fanatics should head to Reveille Coffee. Order a cappuccino and an egg-in-a-hole sandwich and park yourself at the counter looking at on Columbus Avenue for superior people watching. 

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  • 05 of 09

    EAT: Lunch

    ••• John K. via Yelp

    For a classic experience, grab a sandwich from the counter at Molinari Delicatessen, which has been making salami and sausages for over 100 years. Order a sandwich to go and wander over to Washington Park to enjoy. The Naked Lunch offers up brews and a daily menu that rotates through fried chicken sandwiches and caramelized Brussels or asparagus on focaccia. 

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  • 06 of 09

    EAT: Dinner

    ••• Courtesy of Capo's

     Like we said, North Beach is known for its pizza. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not variety. Capo’s offers up deep dish of the Chicagoan variety, including award-winning ones. Just remember to bring cash and only order a slice if it’s just a date—believe us, those pizza are massive. Down the way, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana does pizza of the well, napoleon variety. There is always a wait, but you can sneak into Original Joe’s across the street for a pre-dinner fireside cocktail. If you want, stay for a veal piccata. For pizza of the late night variety, there is the one, the only Golden Boy. Their pan pizzas are pillowy and crunchy with the perfect amount of cheese and toppings. If for some reason pizza is not your thing, there’s always Chubby Noodle, which specializes in Asian cuisine like spicy garlic noodles. 

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  • 07 of 09

    DRINK

    ••• Andrea H. via Yelp

    For the classic beatnik experience, get thee to Vesuvio. Its walls are covered in San Francisco paraphernalia, beers are served from the tap, and Tiffany pendants hang from the ceiling. The whole bar has an old library feel, convenient because it’s right next door to City Lights Bookstore. For a very fancy cocktail, there’s Devil’s Acre. All their cocktails are Barbary Coast originals—or at least cocktails from that era. But when you want a delicious cocktail without a lot of fuss, head to 15 Romolo, which is hidden away on an alley off Broadway. Here sangria and Pimm’s Cup reign supreme and the kitchen serves up burger and fries until 1:30 AM.  

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  • 08 of 09

    SHOP

    ••• Daniel B. via Yelp

    North Beach is filled with boutiques, especially Grant Avenue. Therapy has great home goods, cards, and clothes, some of which is locally made. Schein & Schein is full of antique maps, some of which are outrageously expensive, but others are more affordable. But you absolutely cannot leave the neighborhood without taking a few hours to browse ​City Lights Bookstore. Its three stories are filled to the brim with every book you could possibly imagine, from historical nonfiction and fiction, to travel books and field guides. ​

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  • 09 of 09

    PLAY

    ••• Adam S. via Yelp

    Locals like to lounge in Washington Square Park, where the sun seems to shine all day long. But you should definitely strap on your hiking shoes and start the trek up to Coit Tower. The beacon was built in 1934 in honor of Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy patron of the firefighters.  You can check out the post-Depression murals downstairs but it’s the views of the city and the bay that make everything worth the trek. You’ll see from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate and back over the hillsides of the city covered in houses.