San Francisco Little Italy neighborhood is a major tourism destination, but it is also home to some of the city’s most popular nightclubs and bars. Dance the night away at Atmosphere and Impala or grab a drink at lively watering holes, such as Kells and Columbus Cafe. Neighborhood staples include Vesuvio—the former watering hole of beat writers such as Jack Kerouac—and Specs, while newcomer Comstock Saloon provides a blast from the past with signature cocktails in a historic setting.
15 Romolo (in the Basque Hotel)
15 Romolo Pl., San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.398.1359
When you've seen enough booty-shakin' and pole dancing at the nudey bars along Broadway, escape down this side alley for classier indulgence. The lounge on the first floor of the extended stay Basque Hotel is simple and unassuming, lacking the in-your-face entertainment style teeming from establishments just around the corner. Soothing ambient electronica puts you at ease while reclining on high-backed bright blue polyester booths.
479 Broadway (at Kearny), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.989.8555
North Beach's answer to the Tiki bar, the Bamboo Hut is a classic North Beach nightspot (complete with waterfall and a 7-foot Tiki god statue) for tropical cocktails and an equatorial vibe, even when the frosty fog comes rolling in through North Beach.
473 Broadway, San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.834.9383
Start off with a cocktail and then let loose and dance all night. Dragon Bar is the best of both worlds with a full-size bar and DJs spinning Tuesdays through Saturdays with the party going until 2am.
493 Broadway (at Kearny), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.788.2706
This hip North Beach haunt oozes nouveau Beach cool. With its dim lighting and stylish interior, it provides a welcome respite for Euro-trippers and blonded women in sample sale couture.
Gino & Carlo's
548 Green (at Grant), Tel. 415.421.0896
Conclude your revels with a wobbly game of pool in the back room, with its autographed photo of Frank Sinatra and other memorabilia. Few bars offer a friendlier vibe, and the jukebox ain't bad either; it's the perfect place for a nightcap. Now take two aspirin, drink a gallon of water, and get some sleep.
Kells Irish Restaurant & Bar
530 Jackson (at Columbus), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.955.1916
Tucked away on a secluded alleyway, decked out with tables and chairs when the weather's favorable, Kelly's Irish Restaurant & Bar has the feel of an old Irish pub, complete with a rough hewn vibe and pictures of the Emerald Isle.
12 William Saroyan Alley (at Columbus), Tel. 415.421.4112
Up the alleyway across Columbus is this ancient, dimly lit seafarer's saloon decorated with amazing and unearthly artifacts from around the world. Postcards from homesick regulars are in a shoebox on the bar for your perusal, and huge wedges of Monterey Jack (carved on some antique contraption out of Two Years Before the Mast) are available for purchase. Beer No. 3, coming up.
1232 Grant (at Vallejo), Tel. 415.989.7666
Now head up Grant—the Vieux Carré of the West Coast—and settle in at San Francisco's oldest watering hole (established 1861 or thereabouts). Live music bounces off the well-worn walls and encourages the dancers who crowd the place on weekends. Time to switch to bourbon.
1434 Grant (at Green), Tel. 415.362.7023
Grab a seat on the patio and watch the world amble by at this perpetually packed landmark. Young urban professionals are the plat du jour, if you're into that sort of thing. Yeah, I'll have another bourbon, on the rocks this time.
383 Bay St. (at Mason), San Francisco CA; Tel. 415.399.9555
This weekend hotspot holds true to its name, featuring plush interior, rich hardwood floors and subdued lighting. There are two sides to Suede, with one room hosting a spacious dance floor and another for lounging and conversation.
242 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133; Tel. 415.986.9651
Still with all of its original furnishings dating back 80 years, the Tosca Café rocks retro tunes on a vintage jukebox while patrons can hang out among framed pictures of Marilyn Monroe and sip Irish coffee. It’s a favorite stop for Hollywood and local celebrities.
255 Columbus (at Kerouac), Tel. 415.362.3370
The glorious old bohemian bar, with its stained-glass windows, mezzanine seating, and overwhelming, ever-evolving décor, is your next stop. Beatifically located next to City Lights Bookstore. Give a listen to Charlie Parker on the jukebox while you down a pint of Anchor Steam and discuss Rimbaud.