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Top 15 San Francisco North Beach Restaurants and Things to Do

Along the San Francisco Bay between Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown, is the charming and lively, North Beach. The neighborhood is jam-packed with local history, fun things to do, and tasty things to eat. San Francisco’s Little Italy, North Beach, is packed with coffee shops, retro bars, and classic Italian eateries. It’s made it on the ‘Best Neighborhoods in America’ list for its unique vibe and authentic San Fran feels. While it may be steeped in Italian heritage, locals and tourists enjoy food from all different parts of the world. From coffee shops, retro bars, and fusion cuisine, North Beach has a place for all. Read on to gain exclusive insight on the best restaurants North Beach has to offer, as well as some fun activities to do while visiting the neighborhood. 

a bunch of different types of foods including a piece of pizza and a loaded taco

Why choose what you want to try? Taste it all with an adventure with Sidewalk Food Tours

  1. Eat your way through North Beach with  Sidewalk Food Tours

 

Indulge in North Beach’s top restaurants while learning about the rich history that makes North Beach so special. The exclusive food tour will take you to five unique locations around the neighborhood. Each restaurant was handpicked by one of our travel experts. Get a taste of North Beach’s most famous dishes while listening to fun and exciting stories. In just three hours, your bellies and minds will be full of yummy food and culture. 

a table with a plate of food, a glass of wine and an oil lamp

Fill your belly and get an authentic taste of Italy at Mona Lisa

  1. For delicious authentic Italian, go to Mona Lisa 

 

It’s time to put your low carb diet on hold. Coming to North Beach and not sampling some dishes from Mona Lisa, should be against the law. The women run restaurant serves up homemade Italian food, and they’re located in the heart of North Beach. Guests rave about the Chicken Parmigiana and the Spaghetti Carbonara. With over 200 items on the menu to choose from and Italian grandma size portions, it’s needless to say, but come hungry. 

a group of people sitting at a table with four different bowls of foods

Explore the world of fusion cuisine at Kennedy’s Irish Pub

  1. Taste two cultures intertwined at Kennedy’s Irish Pub & Indian Curry House Restaurant

 

Have you ever heard of a classic Irish watering hole serving Indian fare & cask ales? Well, that’s just what Kennedy’s is famous for. The no-frills Irish pub is clad with traditional Irish decorations, but they serve up some of the best curries, dosas, and tandoori in town. With pool tables and sports on TV, Kennedys is the epitome of fusion cuisine. To go along with your spicy Indian food, be sure to sample one of the Irish beers they have on tap. 

a plate of food with a fruit drizzled with chocolate on a plate

Not an early riser? Grab breakfast or brunch all day at Mama’s on Washington Square

  1. Feel right at home at Mama’s on Washington Square

 

Although the lines will be down the block, it’s worth the wait. Grab a legendary brunch at one of San Fran’s most famous neighborhood eateries. They have been serving locals and tourists breakfast since the 1960s, and their massive omelets, delectable French toast, and Eggs Benedict dishes are all over-the-top. They serve breakfast all day, so if you’re not an early bird, don’t worry, you can still catch the worm or baked loaf cake, in this case. Did we mention they also have homemade pastries made fresh every day?

a white bowl filled with a seafood stew

Satisfy your seafood craving with a freshly caught meal at Sotto Mare

  1. Taste the “Best Damn Crab Cioppino” at Sotto Mare

 

It’s a small neighborhood restaurant with excellent seafood and proportions big enough to satisfy even the hungriest fisherman. All their food is made fresh daily, and most of the seafood is wild caught. The highlight at Sotto Mare is the giant bowls of cioppino. While the dish is big enough for two, we don’t recommend sharing. It’s that good! 

a close up of a slice of pizza and a Blue Ribbon beer on a table

See what all the fuss is about and grab a slice at Tony Gemignani’s

  1. Grab a slice from a 13-time World Pizza Champion at Tony Gemignani’s

 

Have you ever had a pizza made by a Guinness Book of World Record holder? Tony Gemignani has been featured on multiple daily shows, news stations, the food network, and he holds the title of World Pizza Champion. While his famous pies are sold throughout the US, the first shop was Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in North Beach. Many locals say the original location is still the best place in North Beach to eat pizza. 

a plate of food on a table and a bowl of chips and guacamole

Life’s a fiesta at Don Pistos! Mexican food never tasted so good

  1. Enjoy Mexican specialties and drinks at Don Pistos

 

North Beach may be famous for Italian food, but Don Pistos is serving up Mexican food that can surely compete. The exposed brick building may not come with bells and whistles, but they sure do know how to make a great taco and flavorful homemade tortillas. While you’re there, sip on one of their agave wine margaritas. They make all of their cocktails with wine for a new twist on an old classic. 

plates of different dessert foods and two cappuccinos

Life’s sweet with Cafe Grecco

  1. Holy Cannoli. It’s time to fill your sweet cravings at Caffe Greco

 

Cookies, cannolis, tiramisu oh my! There is no lack of sweet treats at this cafe. The homemade Italian desserts are decadent. Plus, no one does a cappuccino better than the Italians, and at Cafe Greco, the coffee is top-notch. If you need an afternoon pick me up or want to start the morning off sweet, head over to Caffe Greco. 

a room with a book shelf filled with books and a man in the corner

Find something new or read an old favorite at City Lights Bookstore

  1. Get your read on at City Lights Bookstore

 

Founded in 1953 by a poet, City Lights is arguably one of the most famous bookstores in the country. A stop at City Lights is a must while in North Beach. Today, it’s become quite a big tourist attraction but for a good reason. Legend has it that City Lights Bookstore was one of the first hubs for the Beat Generation movement in San Francisco. 

a castle with a clock at the top of a grass covered field with Washington Square in the background

Enjoy some fresh air and maybe a little people watching at Washington Square Park

  1. Sprawl out on a picnic blanket at Washington Square Park

 

The perfect place to much on an Italian sandwich and people watch is Washington Square Park. The park is in the heart of North Beach, and the atmosphere is quintessentially San Fran. Since 1847, the park has been a place where locals and tourists flock to bask in the sunshine and experience this urban oasis. You will see many people here taking a quick work break, sipping on a coffee, or reading a book on one of the benches. 

a room with many items and lights on the shelves and hanging

Don’t know what you’re looking for? You just might figure it out if you spend some time in Stuff

  1. Find a hidden gem inside Stuff

 

This place is stuffed to the brim, with for lack of better words, a lot of stuff. Are you in the market for a rare vintage find? Long lost photographs? Retro Furniture? Clothing that was passed down from generations ago? If so, then head over to Stuff for all kinds of vintage and modern things. Even if you’re not looking to buy, popping into the store quickly just to have a look around is well worth it. 

 

  1. Take the Filbert Steps to the top of Telegraph Hill

 

While this outing may not be for the faint of heart, if you have a bit of time, energy, and don’t mind climbing stairs, the Filbert Steps should make it on your North Beach itinerary. See the stunning gardens and views along the way. Be sure to wear comfy shoes for this one, though; it’s a big climb but well worth it! 

 

Tip: While you’re at the Filbert Steps, if you head one block east, you’ll find the Levi Strauss Corporate Headquarters. A small store and museum tell the story of how Levi started making jeans for miners before becoming one of the most iconic brands in the world. 

  1. Giggle at Cobbs Comedy Club

 

Catch a big-name act or see an up and coming comedian at Cobb’s club. Since 1982, comedians have flocked to the club in North Beach to make people laugh. The venue can hold up to 400 guests, and they always have shows and events taking place every night of the week. Be sure to get tickets beforehand though, especially if a well-known comedian is in town. 

a crowd of people outside with a line of food vendors behind them

Visit this yearly street fair and enjoy what the locals look forward to every June at the North Beach Festival

  1. Walk around the North Beach Festival

 

While this only happens in June, if you happen to be there, you should definitely check out this street fair. It’s a local favorite for people living in Fan Fran and the neighboring cities. Showcasing arts and crafts from artists near and far, gourmet food, and live entertainment, the festival can easily keep you entertained for a few hours. It’s spread out along many North Beach’s main streets. It takes place during the first two weeks of June, so there’s plenty of time to work it into your travel schedule for next summer. 

a display in a room with tattoo drawings in frames on the wall

Get inked at the iconic Lyle Tuttle’s tattoo

  1. Check out some retro ink at Lyle Tuttle’s Tattoo Art Museum

 

Lyle Tuttle is an internationally acclaimed tattoo artist. Dubbed as the ‘father of modern tattooing,’ he opened the museum to showcase his collection of tattoo memorabilia. He began tattooing in SF in the 1950s and worked there most of his life. It was at his shop in North Beach where he tattooed Janis Joplin, Cher, Jo Baker, and so many more famous musicians. Many say he is one of the most important tattoo artists of all time. This place isn’t super well known, but it’s one of North Beach’s best-hidden gems. He sadly passed away in March of 2019, but his legacy lives on in the art museum.