The Best Restaurants In North Beach
photo credit: Emily Greene
North Beach is home to San Francisco’s Little Italy—but there’s much more to the neighborhood than just Italian restaurants. Whether you’re looking for Neapolitan pizza or perfect patatas bravas and croquetas, you have lots of great options on and around Columbus Ave. Here are the 14 best restaurants in the area.
Next time you find a $10 bill in an old pair of jeans and want to spend it on something other than one-and-a-half iced lattes, order a couple of slices from Golden Boy Pizza. The North Beach standby has excellent, Sicilian-style square slices with a focaccia crust and tons of gooey cheese, plus toppings like pepperoni, sausage, or clam and garlic sauce. At $4-ish a slice, it’s one of the best deals in the area.
photo credit: Carly Hackbarth
Flour + Water Pizzeria, formerly in the Mission and now in North Beach, got a chic makeover. The shiny, much larger restaurant (by the Flour + Water people) has leather booths, boozy slushies, and a big glass “dough room.” The menu at this nice-casual spot is mostly the same, which is excellent news for anyone who’s a fan of fantastic red and white pies with crispy crusts, creamy soft serve, and god tier mozzarella sticks, which are gooey enough to necessitate a wingspan-length cheese pull. There are new adds worth your time, too, like a cacio e pepe pie that’s capital D decadent, and great house wines (called “Pasta Water” and “Pasta Sauce,” naturally). Get here for a pizza party that’s a little more sophisticated than eating slices out of a cardboard box on your couch.
photo credit: Melissa Zink
Ask us what our perfect middle-of-the-week dinner spot looks like and we’ll offer up Georgian Cheese Boat. The Georgian spot in North Beach is pumping out perfect boat-shaped khachapuri, refreshing salads, soups, grilled chicken and lamb, and gigantic khinkali. If they were serving those soup and meat-filled dumplings in the middle of the Bay Bridge at rush hour, we’d still send you there. For a hyper-casual spot (you order on a big screen by the bar), this place has a lot of perks: quick service, cozy charm, and a great selection of Georgian wines. A not-so-fun perk: inevitably fighting over the leftovers.
photo credit: Susie Lacocque
Sitting in Red Window’s bright, colorful parklet and sipping on low-proof cocktails is perfect for group dinners or birthdays—it just feels like a party. Some drinks are mixed for you via a traveling bar cart, and you’ll want at least two orders of the crispy patatas bravas on the table. Throw in some golden-brown croquetas and top-tier jamón at this Spanish spot and you have yourself a night.
For a casual pasta situation, hit up The Italian Homemade Company. The original North Beach location is our favorite. It’s got a parklet with bar stools, lively music playing in the background, and a “pasta lab” behind the register where you can watch the employees make fresh pasta. To order, just walk up to the register and mix and match your choice of sauce with one of their housemade pastas. Our go-tos are the pappardelle with bolognese or the tortellini with butter and sage.
photo credit: Brit Finnegan
When that North Beach bar hopping extravaganza starts to wind down, haul the group to Sam’s for a reload. The old-school burger institution is open until 2am weekends and midnight on weekdays, and we’re grateful—it’s one of the few late-night spots in town. The space the size (and width) of a U-Haul is filled with old photos of customers, cash-only signs (even though they do accept credit cards), and a “F*ck Off, I’m Hungry” t-shirt. Sidestep and shimmy your way to a stool at the bar, and let a drippy burger come to you. Sam’s keeps theirs simple, like what you’d get at a backyard cookout: it’s loaded with just cheese, onion, tomato, and a fistful of shredded lettuce. Diving into it while it’s pitch black outside is one of the happier half-hours you can spend in SF.
Next time you’re strolling through North Beach and smell juicy, perfectly fried chicken wafting through the air, follow the scent to SF Chickenbox. The small takeout-only spot serves some of our favorite fried chicken in the city, and you should definitely stop by for the original fried chicken sandwich with house sauce and shredded lettuce, or grab a big box of chicken thighs and drumsticks for the road. Whatever you do, be sure to grab a side of their creamy mac salad, too.
Molinari Delicatessen is a North Beach institution. But unlike a lot of the other spots on Columbus Ave., it’s not a tourist trap—the sandwiches are absolutely delicious. Walk in, pick your choice of bread (we like the soft roll), and order a sandwich stuffed with layers of their house-cured meats (the Renzo and North Beach Special are particularly good). They also have tons of wine to take home, along with pantry staples like pasta sauces and Italian snacks.
There’s no shortage of options when it comes to dining at Tony’s—you’ll find 12 different pizza styles on the menu, ranging from Sicilian and Neapolitan to Roman and Detroit. They take their pies seriously here, so you’ll have your pick of dough, shapes, and toppings. If you’re overwhelmed by the choices, we like the margherita Neapolitan and the coal-fired New Yorker, which is loaded with sausage, pepperoni, and cheese.
photo credit: Lani Conway
Osmanthus wears many hats. It’s first and foremost a dim sum restaurant on a touristy stretch of Broadway with excellent Cantonese standards, like shrimp cheong fun and slightly crispy XO noodle rolls. But this place also has a full bar in the back decorated with pagodas and dragons, TVs streaming horse races, and some of the best garlic noodles in SF. Leaving without getting face-to-face with a heap of the chewy, fragrant noodles is not an option.
photo credit: Bodega
While Bodega’s big neon sign reading “Wet Your Lips” may seem like social media pandering for the athleisure crowd, it sets the tone for a flirty, wine-drenched night—just one of the many reasons this bar and restaurant is the definitive date night destination in North Beach. Another: the small plates are ideal for sharing with someone you just swiped right on. Start things off with the snacky crispy potatoes or mushroom toast, and if things go well, keep the night going with a round of short rib tacos.
photo credit: Carly Hackbarth
The ocean theme is full throttle at Sotto Mare. The seafood institution is loaded with life-sized swordfish, model boats, and other maritime paraphernalia, just in case you needed a reminder that you’re about to eat a lot of things from the sea. Go for the gigantic cioppino—it’s big enough to fall into and loaded with crab legs, shrimp, mussels, and squid. It comes with the requisite plastic bib, which you should proudly wear while admiring the decor and taking down another round of free bread.
Sometimes, all we want is a big bowl of pasta with extra creamy or tomato-y sauces, and for that, Trattoria Contadina always fits the bill. The old-school Italian spot is located on a quiet corner on the border of North Beach and Russian Hill, and serves up heavy pasta dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, housemade gnocchi with tomato cream, and penne with ’nduja sausage. And no matter what you order, know the portions are gigantic.
For incredibly good focaccia—and lots of it—head to Liguria, a small bakery across from Washington Square. They only sell the one type of bread, but there are lots of variations, from plain and rosemary to less conventional options like raisin and jalapeño cheese, or a “pizza” focaccia with red sauce and green onions. The counter-serve spot closes at noon and tends to sell out quickly, so plan on making this a morning stop.