North Beach

NEIGHBORHOODS:

In a valley between Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill lies a part of San Francisco that cherishes its heritage. Although neighboring Chinatown has spread into many of its streets and alleys, North Beach keeps its roots as an old-time Italian neighborhood.

The Fior d’Italia Restaurant, founded in 1886, can show someone looking for a formal meal why it has survived so long. A seat at the counter of Golden Boy Pizza is for those with less time; a slice of the clam and garlic pizza is hearty enough for dinner.

Caffe Sport is a cellar where the service is as salty as the anchovies—and they’ll tell you what you’re having, not the other way around. This turns out to be a good thing, considering how fine the chefs are.

And then there are the many in-between places: bistros, gelaterias and sidewalk cafes all along North Beach’s main street, Columbus Avenue.

Washington Square Park offers a window of greenery in this densely packed part of the world. The park faces a beautiful old church, Saints Peter and Paul, at 666 Filbert St., with twin bell towers and a Dante quote inscribed on the facade.

The intersection of Broadway and Columbus is the area’s crossroads. Nightclubs catering to single men and sailors light up the night on Broadway; it’s a sketchy strip that honors the spirit of the long-gone dangers of the Barbary Coast (though that older mariner’s downfall was actually located several blocks to the east of Columbus). The Condor Club, right at the intersection, has a bronze plaque honoring its contribution to the history of exotic dancing.

More literary history can be found at the internationally famous City Lights Bookstore, still independently owned after six decades. Refreshment awaits opposite at the funky Victorian Vesuvio Cafe. To get from one to the other, you cross an alley named after a favorite local figure who was often seen at either venue: On the Road’s author, Jack Kerouac.

Explore North Beach: Restaurants | Bars and Clubs | Real Estate