North Beach was the historic center of the beatnik subculture, a stereotypical group of intellectuals who wrote and read poetry and dressed in dark clothing and sported sunglasses. For 50 years bohemians hung out in establishments on North Beach’s Columbus Street.
In the 1800’s thousands of Italians moved into the area and brought with them Italian foods and wines. In fact, during the great 1906 fire Italians saved their village by opening wine barrels, dousing blankets in the good Italian red wine and draping them over their houses to keep them from catching fire. Ask any Italian they’ll tell you it’s the gospel truth.
Italian restaurants abound in North Beach. I have three favorites. Capp’s Corner with it’s basic, old-fashioned Italian dishes and feisty servers. Another favorite is the wedge-shaped Michelangelo Restaurant, again good basic food. Finally I love the Stinking Rose. It specializes in garlic dishes. As they say on their Facebook page, “Follow your nose to the Stinking Rose.”
North Beach is a center of San Francisco nightlife where cafes and night clubs along with strip clubs line Broadway Street. On Grant Street you will find The Saloon, the oldest bar in San Francisco and famous for its blues music.
A trip to North Beach wouldn’t be complete without attending the great musical revue at the iconic Beach Blanket Babylon that has been performing satires on pop culture and politicians for more than 40 years. You’ll love the hats.
After you visit the small boutiques on upper Grant and the Beat Museum to learn a bit about Kerouac and his beat generation friends, end your tour in the tranquil Washington Square Park for a few quiet moments.