North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf
For a good time down on the Wharf, you can choose from a number of popular bars. Rosewood (732 Broadway, 415/951-4886, www.rosewoodbar.com, Mon.–Sat. 5 p.m.–2 a.m.) glows with namesake wood paneling and soft lighting. Join the young, hip, urban crowd and sip a specialty cocktail, or quaff a draft beer inside the bar or out on the bamboo-strewn patio. A popular hangout, Rosewood can get crowded (and service can get spotty) on weekends.
One of the oldest and most celebrated bars in the City, Tosca (242 Columbus Ave., 415/986-9651, Tues.–Sat. 5 p.m.–2 a.m., Sun. 5 p.m.–midnight) loves its unpretentious yet glam 1940s style. Hunter S. Thompson once tended bar here when the owner was out at the dentist. The jukebox plays grand opera to the patrons clustered in the big red booths. Locals love the lack of trendiness, the classic cocktails, and the occasional star sightings.
Dress up a little for a night out at 15 Romolo (15 Romolo Pl., 415/398-1359, daily 5:30 p.m.–2 a.m.). You’ll have to hike up the steep little alley (Fresno Street crosses Romolo, which can be a little hard to find) to this hotel bar, but once you’re there you’ll love the fab cosmos, edgy jukebox music, and often-mellow crowd. The bar is smallish and can get crowded on the weekends, so come on a weeknight if you prefer a quiet drink.
If you prefer pool and a plasma big-screen showing sports, head for Gino & Carlo (548 Green St., 415/421-0896, daily 6 a.m.–2 a.m.), an Italian sports bar in the heart of North Beach. Buy a huge beer or moderate cocktail, yell at the football and baseball games, and enjoy being part of the local crowd.
The North Beach neighborhood has long been San Francisco’s best-known red-light district. To this day, Broadway Avenue is lined with the neon signs of strip clubs and adult stores, all promising grown-up good times. Do be aware that cover charges at most of the strip clubs tend to be on the high side, and lone women should approach this area with extreme caution after dark.
If you’re just looking for a good time at a PG-rated (okay, maybe R-rated if you get lucky) dance club, check out the Bamboo Hut (479 Broadway, 415/989-8555, www.maximumproductions.com, Mon.–Fri. 5 p.m.–2 a.m., Sat.–Sun. 7 p.m.–2 a.m.). It’s part tacky tiki bar, part impromptu dance club, with a cheerful vibe and friendly scene that can be hard to come by in this part of town. You’ll see the tiki god, the bamboo decor, and the fun umbrella-clad fruity rum drinks. The house specialty is the Flaming Volcano Bowl—yes, it’s really on fire, and it’s probably a good idea to share one with a friend. DJs spin on weekends at the Bamboo Hut; they might not be the hippest in town, but regulars have a great time dancing anyhow.
The reality is that the clubs people come to North Beach to visit are the strip clubs. If this isn't what you’re looking for, you’re really better off clubbing in one of the other neighborhoods.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition