The New York Times Travel section makes a visit to San Francisco to detail the many alleys that give the city its distinctive character (slide show of the tour highlights here).

The article hits on several of my personal favorites (Bix, Cafe Claude, Le Colonial, the criminally underrated Sociale, Specs) and it touches on some places that I want to check out (Alfred’s Steakhouse). That I haven’t been to the South Park Cafe for the pig salad or steak frites is something of an embarrassment considering I used to work about a block away from there and I now pass it every day on my commute home. I plan to remedy that in short order. I’m out of my club kid phase, so it’s rare that I hit 111 Minna anymore, though it’s certainly a great spot to check out some funky art and dance away the mid-week work blues. I have little interest in going to Harlot (the bridge and tunnel crowd milling about outside the club has something to do with that). I know, how elitist of me! I admit it, I’m a city snob…at least I’m honest about it. However I do like Harlot’s neighbor, John Collins, down on Natoma on the rare occasion that I’m out that way. I don’t hang out on Belden Place nearly enough, but that’s more a product of me not working in the city. Romalo used to be a go to bar, but the Columbus and Broadway intersection of North Beach has become even more seedy than normal recently, so it’s fallen off the roster. I don’t know if I appreciate the outing of Hotel Biron, one of the great, small (and still relatively under the radar) wine bars in the city, but the place deserves some pub, so I’ll deal. On that same note however, I’m very happy the author neglected to mention The Hidden Vine, right by Le Colonial. Descending down to the Hidden Vine to partake of the excellent (and well priced) wine and cheese selections is a special delight, given the crazy, hedonistic nightlife going on within blocks of the place. It’s a cozy and sophisticated oasis that is well worth visiting on a date or with a small group of friends.

There are also a host of other places I’d recommend that, while they’re not on side streets or alleys, are nonetheless off the beaten path a bit. Sweeties over by the wharf (right around the corner from Trader Joe’s) is a quiet little neighborhood watering hole with a pool table, cheap drinks, and a juke box filled with classic jazz and rock from the 60s. I also would endorse the Buddha Lounge on Grant (great for Liar’s Dice), Zeki’s in Nob Hill (great for the fireplace and cute bartenders), Gallery Lounge (great for private parties and the smoker’s patio), Trad’r Sam’s in the outer Richmond (great for kitsch and tropical drinks that will leave you absolutely shitfaced), and The Brazen Head (great for it’s conspiratorial atmosphere and the pepper steak).

It appears the Times didn’t do a great job of fact checking of the article, though, because Julius’ Castle closed in January (or apparently so…there still seems to be some confusion on the point). While I never made it to the Castle, I would like to pay respects to another North Beach alley institution that closed some years back but that was one of my favorite haunts. R.I.P. The Field (sniff).


~ by uvasig on March 31, 2008.

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