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North Beach at Night!

The Best Bars, Clubs, Lounges and other Nighttime Diversions in North Beach

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San Francisco's charming little Italy is a shopper's, sightseer's and diner's delight during the day but at night it becomes the brightest coal in the city's red-hot nightlife scene. This is the neighborhood to head to any night of the week for packed local bars, sultry adult entertainment and fascinating conversations with a complete stranger at a classic cafe.

1. Vesuvio Cafe

Photo by Ocean Malandra
A true San Francisco bohemian icon, Vesuvio is where the Beat Generation gathered to launch the country's first countercultural movement and where everyone from local journalists to international visitors still gather to discuss everything from world politics to abstract philosophy under stained glass lighting and poetry covered walls. Vesuvio cafe is located right across mural covered Jack Kerouac Alley from City Lights Bookstore, the famous publisher of Beat works, and across the street from the Beat Museum, where you can learn more about this turning point in American history.
255 Columbus Ave, (415) 362-3370 www.vesuvio.com
Read My Full Review of Vesuvio and Write Your Own

2. Columbus Cafe

Photo by Ocean Malandra
Your best bet on the alcohol soaked row of bars and lounges on Green between Grant and Columbus for cheap drinks and a laid-back friendly vibe, the Columbus Cafe also tops my list of the Best Dive Bars in the City. Columbus Cafe has always been a working class kinda place, as evidenced by the photos of unionized workers from the heydays of the labor movement and it's basic black interior, and it still attracts a mostly local scene. Columbus also has the best happy hour in the city - 2 for 1 drafts from 4-8pm seven days a week - and you will find a packed house any night of the week here.
562 Green Street, (415) 274-2599 www.columbuscafesf.com

3. The Condor Club

Photo by Ocean Malandra
This historic landmark of a gentleman's club dates back to the days of voluptuous Carol Doda, the nation's first topless entertainer, and still hosts some of city's most talented pole dancers every night of the week. The Condor is more than just a topless bar however, it also showcases live local bands every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, which sets it far apart from the other Strip Clubs that line the rest of Broadway. Great drink specials and plush booth seating also give the place an appeal beyond that of go-go bar, and it can be quite a scene on the weekends.
560 Broadway St, (415) 781-8222

4. Savoy Tivoli

Photo by Ocean Malandra
With the ambiance of an old world Italian lounge and a large patio opening right onto the sidewalk, the Savoy Tivoli is taste of Europe in the heart of San Francisco. Somewhat of a meat market and a place to see and be seen, Savoy Tivoli also remains a classic destination to meet up with friends over cocktails, take a date after dinner or even cruise into solo as the open floor plan makes mingling easy. Savoy Tivoli, which also hosts live jazz on Saturday nights, is located just a bit up chic little Grant Ave on the way to Telegraph Hill from the nightlife intersection of Grant and Green.
1434 Grant Ave, (415) 362-7023

5. The 1232 Saloon

Photo by Ocean Malandra
Often just referred to as just the "Saloon", this Gold Rush era rickety wooden bar is jumping with live blues and rock and roll every night of the week and gets people of all ages dancing around with abandon. The Saloon is old school San Francisco at its best, one of the last standing monuments to the wild days of the Barbary Coast; the dress code is non-existant and the clientele is decidedly anti-hip and free spirited. You may have to loosen your collar a bit to get into the swing of things, but once you do you will stay till closing time.
1232 Grant Ave, (415) 989-7666

6. Caffe Trieste

Photo by Ocean Malandra
North Beach's nightlife can be overwhelming, often spilling into the streets on weekends and sometimes getting downright rowdy, especially on Broadway. Those looking for something a little tamer should head over to the corner of Vallejo and Grant, where the oldest cafe on the west coast sports a buzzing little local crowd in the evening. On thursdays the cafe, which also tops my list of the Best Cafes in the City, hosts a live music concert - anything from traditional Italian folk to bluegrass - and Caffe Trieste is open and bustling till midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
609 Vallejo Street, (415) 550-1107 www.caffetrieste.com

7. Rogue Ales Public House

Photo by Ocean Malandra
The Southernmost outpost of the award-winning micro-brewery based in Ashland, Oregon, Rogue is a favorite gathering place in the North Beach neighborhood. This is due as much to it's sunny outside patio and excellent and well priced bar food - including Kobe beef burgers- as it is to its selection of artisan beers: it features 40 labels on tap. The Rogue Ales Public Brew House is located across the street from Washington Square Park, as North Beach starts to slip away down the hill to Fisherman's Wharf, and so is quieter on the weekends then it's neighbors over on Grant Avenue or Broadway.
673 Union St, (415) 362-7880 www.rogue.com

8. Tosca Cafe

Photo by Ocean Malandra
Those looking for something classy and romantic, the kind of place where lovers can melt into the vintage red vinyl booths as they look into each others eyes over brandy infused cappuccinos, need stumble no farther than Tosca. This hundred-year-old cocktail lounge features a mahogany bar, bow-tie wearing bartenders and an ancient Wurlitzer jukebox that rambles back and forth between opera and Frank Sinatra. A cocktail at Tosca is the perfect way to finish off the evening after a meal at one of the many nearby Italian Restaurants that dot the North Beach area.
242 Columbus Ave, (415) 986-9651 www.toscacafesf.com

9. O'Reillys

No neighborhood in San Francisco is complete without it's local Irish Bar, and that is just as true for traditionally Italian North Beach as it is for anywhere else. Ornate woodwork and murals of famous Irish writers make O'Reilly's perfectly at home in bohemian North Beach and the bar attracts a strong local following, who show up just as much for it's traditional Irish food menu as for it's proper Guinness pints.
622 Green St, (415) 989-6222 www.sforeillys.com

10. Specs' Adler Museum Cafe

Photo by Ocean Malandra
Hidden away down tiny William Saroyan Alley, Specs' makes up the third leg of the Bohemian cluster just below the intersection of Columbus and Broadway that includes Vesuvio and Tosca. Specs' is the untidiest of the three bars, a dark cave that used to be a shanghai tunnel and is now stuffed with odds and ends from across the globe, from ornate Native-American masks to stuffed Dungeness crabs, a collection that makes the bar seem stuck in the 1850's pioneer days. This is one of the best bars in the entire city to meet locals however, and the dim lighting as well as the wagon wheel of cheese behind the bar make for never-ending conversations that you wont soon forget.
12 William Saroyan Pl (415) 421-4112
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