Party Earth Review North Beach has been San Francisco’s official Little Italy for over a century, but its history extends back to the days of the Barbary Coast, when hustlers and gold miners trekked in nightly to cut loose with cheap wine... ... read full review
Primarily the area east along Broadway Street and north along Columbus Avenue at the Broadway/Columbus intersection
San Francisco, CA 94133
MUNI F Line: The Embarcadero & Broadway
North Beach / Telegraph Hill, San Francisco –
North Beach has been San Francisco’s official Little Italy for over a century, but its history extends back to the days of the Barbary Coast, when hustlers and gold miners trekked in nightly to cut loose with cheap wine and cheaper women.
The intersection of Broadway Street and Columbus Avenue marks the beginning of the vibrant nightlife that still thrives here, anchored by the famed City Lights Bookstore, where Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac used to hang.
Heading north on Columbus or neighboring Grant Street unveils blocks lined with ristoranti and caffé bars – many of which cater to tourists – though anyone in need of a more authentic dining experience can hit up a plethora of traditional joints like Capp's Corner or Molinari Delicatessen.
The area’s bar and club scene draws huge crowds on the weekends, whether its old-time barflies and sports hounds mixing with boisterous pre-clubbers at Gino and Carlo, live music lovers packing into Bimbo's 365 Club , or out-of-towners and European tourists tanking up at The Saloon, the oldest bar in the city.
Things heat up down Broadway, where pedestrians pass long-standing sex shops on their way to classy lounges like Monroe, all the while navigating the rows of men lingering outside the city’s highest concentration of strip clubs. Hipster mixology buffs are duly in attendance at 15 Romolo, while college students flood the Bamboo Hut for punchbowls that could drop a buffalo.
Yet even Bamboo’s tiki kitsch can’t hold a candle to Beach Blanket Babylon, a musical revue of SF’s history that’s been running so long a street was named after it.
Whether it’s the topless ta-tas, classy lounges, master cocktails, or sizzling calzones that bring the raucous crowds to North Beach, one thing is clear – they show up to celebrate and party just as hard as their Gold Rush predecessors did.
Artsy hipsters, throwback beatniks, aging hippies, leather-clad bikers, frat boys, sorority girls, quiet readers, noisy drinkers, cigar smokers, families, and the wizened Italian men who’ve watched it all come together over the years. All ages, but mostly 21+.
City Lights Bookstore (261 Columbus Avenue) is the center of the Beat Generation.
Live music spills from venues like Bimbo’s 365 Club, while many bars along Columbus Avenue feature jazz bands on weekends. Nightspots include the classic SF satirical musical revue Beach Blanket Babylon (at Club Fugazi, 678 Green Street), which pokes fun at pop culture with songs and absurdly large hats.
Monroe (473 Broadway Avenue) for its popular upscale lounge scene; and strip clubs of various quality (along Broadway Avenue). Other bars include sports bar Gino and Carlo (548 Green Street), Bamboo Hut (479 Broadway) for a wild crowd of young revelers, and the hip 15 Romolo (15 Romolo Street) for mixology and old-timey cocktails.
Notable eateries include: L’Osteria del Forno (519 Columbus Avenue), É Tutto Qua (270 Columbus Avenue), The Stinking Rose (325 Columbus Avenue), and casual eats from Capp’s Corner (1600 Powell Street) and Caffè Roma (526 Columbus Avenue).
King of Thai Noodle (1268 Grant Avenue) and dim sum at many hole-in-the-wall Chinese joints on Broadway’s 600 block.
The annual North Beach Festival in June features over a hundred arts and crafts booths, nearly two-dozen gourmet food booths, three stages of live entertainment, Italian street painting, and beverage gardens.
Food and drink prices range from dirt-cheap dive bars, pizza and Indian takeout, and barebones Chinese grub to upscale wine bars, mixology hotspots, and high-concept cuisine.
Anything goes: high-end club wear to t-shirts and sandals.
Thursdays through Sundays for streets full of revelers, travelers, and (thankfully) taxicabs.
The largest Chinatown in North America begins just a few blocks west of City Lights Bookstore (261 Columbus Avenue).