North Beach, the Early Days

images of North Beach, San FranciscoNorth Beach, the early days, was an actual beach, a landfill dating back to the middle of the 19th century. Warehouses, fishing wharves, and docks were then built on the newly formed shoreline (top photo). Due to the proximity of the docks, the southern half of the neighborhood south of Broadway was home of the infamous Barbary Coast.

Washington Square was one of the first parks designated in San Francisco, established in 1847(bottom photos). Grant Avenue is the oldest street in San Francisco. It has had other names prior to becoming “Grant” in 1906 such as the Street of the Founding and Dupont Street. Upper Grant, as the locals refer to it, is the center of many cafes and vintage boutiques including Café Trieste and The Saloon, which date back to 1861. (more…)

Gold Spike Restaurant in San Francisco

image of Gold Spike restaurant in San FranciscoThe Gold Spike restaurant in San Francisco was another Italian family-style dinner-house in North Beach that was forced to close.  The place was part of a large building that wrapped around the block and encompassed many storefronts, including O’Reilly’s Irish Bar & Restaurant and L’Osteria del Forno.

Attilio and Natalina Mechetti, immigrants from Italy’s Tuscany region, opened the joint in 1920 as the Columbus Candy Store and Soda Fountain, although soda was not the only drink served. Prohibition was on, and the Mechettis knew how to treat their customers well.

The Gold Spike featured an uneven floor in the front dining area near the bar as well as business cards and dollar bills plastered all over the walls and ceiling.  Even the stuffed moose and marlin were tagged. (more…)

Capp’s Corner and Caesar’s in San Francisco

Two of my favorite restaurants that are no longer with us are Capp’s Corner and Caesar’s in San Francisco.  Capp’s was established in 1963 and closed in 2015. Formerly at 1600 Powell Street, it sat next to Beach Blanket Babylon.  The Italian restaurant was a favorite of not only tourists but cops, barmen, retirees and locals.

No one could greet you better than Seamus Coyle with his Irish way. The dinners were healthy portions with reasonable prices.  Remember the tasty tureen of homemade minestrone followed by the kidney bean house salad?  Nice way to start a meal.  Apparently the long-time Ginella owners were one of the latest victims of the City’s eviction frenzy.  Even the praises of Governor Jerry Brown and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti couldn’t sway the landlord.  Sad!


The Saloon in North Beach, San Francisco

Image of The Saloon, North BeachThe Saloon in North Beach, San Francisco, is located on Grant Street just a couple of doors up from Broadway.  It first opened in 1861, making it the oldest drinking establishment in the City.  The building looks much the same as it did way back during those infamous Barbary Coast days when it offered 5-cent Bavarian beer, 10-cent hot Scotch Punches, and cigars.  The wooden bar, which was installed in the 1860’s and made overseas, is still in use.  At its base, a tiled trench (from yesteryear as well) runs under the the stools, once used as a spittoon and occasionally as a urinal (perhaps during modern times also). 

The Saloon was one of those places where easy targets were drugged, hauled up to the east side of nearby Telegraph Hill and imprisoned in one of the Filbert Step cottages to be shanghaied out to sea later.  The 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed most of the buildings in the area but not The Saloon. (more…)

Gino and Carlo in San Francisco

image of Gino and CarloGino and Carlo in San Francisco was established in 1942 and a family operated saloon for more than fifty years.  The North Beach bar on Green Street has always been known for their cheap drinks, easy vibe and great characters.  Frank was a sweetheart behind the bar–low key, mellow and knew your name.  Carol Doda would visit after her show sometimes.  Pool players and fantasy-sport enthusiasts also gathered here.  There might even be a guy hanging out in the shadows with a fedora on, a Godfather waiting to be received.  

I remember this time when I got into a conversation with a regular, an old-salt Italian.  Let’s call him “Alfredo”.  Alfredo started telling this tale about how he was dining at a neighborhood eatery/bar when the owner approached and suddenly collapsed. (more…)

Jack Kerouac Alley in San Francisco

image of S.F.-Jack Kerouac AlleyS.F.-City Lights PublishingJack Kerouac Alley in San Francisco is a one-way lane that connects Grant and Columbus.  It is named after the Beat Generation who used to frequent the nearby pub and bookstore. 

Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg set the tone for the Italian enclave in North Beach during the mind-expansion sixties.  It is here where the romance comedy, Stumptown Daze, has its beginning.

In 1988, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who was the co-founder of City Lights Publishing, proposed the dedication of the alley to the Board of Supervisors.  The passageway is known for its colorful graffiti and engraved Western and Chinese poems. Below is a sampling of this genius. (more…)