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North Beach East
Scott Lucas | Photo: Roi Brooks | January 3, 2013
Stockton to Grant; Vallejo to Greenwich
North of Broadway’s neon lights and east of Marinara Row, quaint storefronts and understated lounges have been quietly opening their doors. On Grant Avenue, locals toast at Tope (1326 Grant Ave.) and Church Key (1402 Grant Ave.), shop Mashka’s (1400 Grant Ave.) displays of earthy jewelry draped over stacked hardbound books, and dip into boutiques like the new locavore decor store Park and Pond (1422 Grant Ave.). Vespa riders zip by toting groceries from the farmers’ market, and on Sunday mornings, die-hard soccer fans pile into Maggie McGarry’s at game time.
At the neighborhood’s northern end, bearded patrons frequent the new Public Barber Salon (1528 Grant Ave.), where the bathrooms are decked with vintage maps of California and gratis beer is dispensed by a retro vending machine. Across the street, locals Melissa Gugni and Jay Esopenko curate displays of imported parmesan and prosciutto, fresh baguettes, chianti, and Heslet honey (from backyard apiaries just up the hill) in their tiny market, Little Vine (1541 Grant Ave.). “A couple of years ago, this neighborhood was stale; it was just tourists,” says Esopenko, who opened Little Vine in 2011. “But that’s all changing now.”
The new for-locals side of North Beach really started turning heads when Park Tavern (1652 Stockton St.) opened at Stockton and Filbert, replacing Moose’s legendary old-school style with mimosa brunches. But unlike in quick-flip neighborhoods, sentimental icons tend to stick around here: Lawrence Ferlinghetti still frequents Caffe Trieste; the beloved diner Mama’s still has a line out the door every weekend; and Park Tavern pays tribute to its predecessor by hanging moose antlers over the bar.
Along the street, classic bay-windowed Victorians are everywhere. Continue up Telegraph Hill, though, and you’ll find modern architecture (and better views), plus hidden alleys lined with colorful tulips and over-grown palms. Sure, you’ll have to get used to the rumble of double-decker buses and the fanny-packing tourists crowding the corners, but try to think of them as a reminder that you live in a city worth visiting.
Affordability: B (rent for a two-bedroom apartment, $2,400; cost of a two-bedroom, $800,000)
Walkability to amenities: A (everything is within a short six-block radius)
Public transportation: C (8bX, 8X, 30, 39, 41 Muni lines, but it’s a 20-minute walk to BART)
Weather: B+ (Summer forecast: 68 degrees, mostly sunny)
Safety: B (For a thriving nightlife scene, there’s relatively low crime)
The bummer: You may have to tolerate the occasional strip clubber straying through your hood
Read More: The Bay Area's top 10 neighborhoods
Ocean Beach: For a reminder that this is a beach town
Polk Gulch: For bustling nightlife (just don't call it the next Valencia)
Richmond Annex: For the no-strings-attached white picket fence
NoPa: Because it's the Mission 10 years ago
Uptown Oakland: For a nonstop art orgy
Mission Creek: Because it's the new locavore mecca
Hayes Valley: For a livable MoMA
Dogpatch: Because it's an urban laboratory
Burlingame Terrace: Because maybe Pleasantville isn't lame after all
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of San Francisco.