Why North Beach Is San Francisco’s Best Neighborhood

Samar Sharifi




I had dreams of moving to San Francisco, but was desperately trying to save money after moving back to the Bay Area from Paris. I decided to crash with friends and family, settling for a rough commute back and forth to my first real job.


My office was downtown and a friend persuaded me to walk over to Mario's Cigar Bar for lunch one day. Looking out on Washington Square park, with Coit Tower hovering above, North Beach is the neighborhood that stole my heart and lured me to finally make the move to San Francisco.


It's been over 10 years since that day, and I still feel nostalgic every time I wander around North Beach. The energy here is intoxicating; the sidewalks are always buzzing with tourists, drawing them into a hive of tourist traps.


Despite these culinary and scenic landmines, North Beach still possesses a deep-rooted neighborhood scene, where locals know each other by name and people still slow down to get to know one another over a round of afternoon cocktails. Full disclosure: North Beach will always have a special place in my heart; it's where I stumbled into adulthood and met my husband along the way.


I'm sharing a few of my neighborhood gems, but know that there are many more to explore. If you're visiting from out of town, do yourself a favor and walk into this magical neighborhood via Columbus or Grant Street and make a day of wandering around to find some of your own treasures.




  • Cotogna - Sunday supper is a must; remember to book in advance.
  • Maykadeh - Timeless Persian food and exceptional hospitality.
  • Firenze by Night - My answer to the question everyone asks, "Where can I find good Italian food in North Beach?"
  • Golden Boy - Square slices that never disappoint. Worth the line every time. Pro tip: Bring some bills, this spot is cash-only.
  • Molinari's Delicatessen - Delicious deli sandwiches and Italian foodstuffs.




  • Tony and Niks - Delicious cocktails with old school charm. Excellent spot for a date.
  • Specs - Tucked away off Columbus Street, a timeless spot with cheap drinks and unique clientele. You're guaranteed to strike up a conversation with a stranger.
  • Church Key – Well-curated beer list, tucked away on Grant Street.
  • Saloon - One of the oldest bars in SF. Strong drinks and great live music.
  • Northstar - A sports bar and neighborhood meeting place. It's where I met my husband.
  • 15 Romolo - Great cocktails and bites, tucked away in an alley off of Broadway.
  • Vesuvio - An iconic bar tucked next door to City Lights. Head in before/after shopping for a drink and some excellent people watching.



  • Caffe Trieste - Classic North Beach coffee shop, where you'll always find a crowd outside catching a buzz.
  • Caffe Greco - Coffeeshop on Columbus with great bites and outdoor seating.




  • Grant Street has tons of local shops, bars, and galleries.
  • City Lights is a legendary independent bookstore. It offers excellent literary events, and the staff make solid recommendations on literature. This is where I always go to grab a few books before a trip.






Author Bio:

Samar Sharifi is a San Francisco Bay Area native. She is the author of the Adore a Bowl blog, and a contributor to Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine


Image Sources:

--All photos by Samar Sharifi.

--Cover Photo: Pamela J. Eisenberg (Flickr, Creative Commons).

not popular
Samar Sharifi
Bottom Slider: 
Out Slider

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Replaces [VIDEO::http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=someVideoID::aVideoStyle] tags with embedded videos.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><div><img><h2><h3><h4><span>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.