“Immerse yourself in San Francisco history in this characterful and colourful small hotel in quintessential North Beach neighbourhood”
The same colour scheme plays in all 15 boho-chic rooms, arranged over two storeys. Corridors are decorated in pumpkin and sage, room doors are a rich purple, woodwork is black. Inside the rooms, walls are coral, ceilings are sky blue; carpets throughout are striped gold and blue. Cast-iron beds are draped in muslin netting, and the checked fabric on the bedspreads is repeated in the curtains and cushions. Everything is immaculately kept.
Smallest are the two Cosy Rooms, which are great for solo travellers and, well, 'cosy', for couples. The 12 Comfortable Rooms vary slightly in size and layout according to their position along the corridors. There are 4 inside rooms which are the quietest as their windows face the back of the building. The room where Allen Ginsberg stayed is named for the great man and is at the end of the top floor corridor.
Families are advised to take the Inviting Room as it is the largest and has two queen beds.
All rooms have a small colour television, a retro-styled black telephone with modem jacks, alarm clock/radio, vintage armoire with extra blankets and a fan inside, and a portable luggage rack. You also get a round glass-topped bistro table with two wicker armchairs. Bedside lights have ceramic bases and shades of lacquered paper; ceiling lights are covered by parasols.
50s-style shower bathrooms are compact, in yellow tiles with black trim, with hairdryer and Lather toiletries. Each has a B&W photo of a group of Beats in the 1950s.
No meals or snacks are on offer but on arrival you are given a Beverage Menu from which you can order Freixenet champagne by the half-bottle, mineral waters, coke and sprite.
Every day from 6-10pm a carafe of cream sherry is put out in the small lobby for guests to help themselves, either as an aperitif or nightcap.
Luckily, eating out in North Beach is one of its great attractions. Generations of immigrant families, particularly Italian and Chinese, have given the neighbourhood a community feel and lots of excellent restaurants, cafes and bars, similar to Little Italy in New York, but without the high-rise buildings.
All of the following recommendations are within 3 blocks of the hotel - naturally there are many others further afield. And Stan and Charles can give you the lowdown on every North Beach eatery, steering you away from tourist traps.
For breakfast, Mama's on Washington Square (Stockton near Filbert) does wholesome American breakfasts and brunch (get there early to avoid the queues). Or try Curly's, a Mom and Pop outfit on Powell between Green and Union. Counter-service Café Divine on Stockton near Union is open all day but also does breakfast, and has live jazz 4 evenings a week. Mo's Burger Joint has breakfast after 9am, they grind their own burgers on the (Grant at Green and Vallejo) premises and use artisan-crafted buns. Café Delucchi, 500 Columbus, does eggs benedict and florentine.
Noteworthy all-day venues include Caffe Trieste on Vallejo, a long-established haunt of writers and artists from dawn till late, and Cafe Zoetrope in the beautiful green Sentinel Building owned by Francis Ford Coppola, which serves traditional Italian fare and Coppola's wines; above are Zoetrope production premises. And there are any number of delis to choose from.
For dinner you're truly spoiled for choice. On the Italian tip you could try intimate cash-only L'Osteria del Forno, on Columbus between Green and Union, the quintessential no-reservations neighbourhood joint. Ristorante Ideale (Grant and Vallejo) offers inventive rustic Roman fare. A little off the beaten path, Mom and Pop operation Trattoria Contadina (Mason and Union), offers organic flavourful food, and has a devoted local following. Brasserie Rose Pistola (Columbus and Green) serves homemade pastas, fresh fish and chops.
In Chinatown head for Cantonese seafood specialists Yuet Lee (Stockton and Broadway) or bare-bones yet always popular Hunan style House of Nanking (Kearny and Columbus). Cantonese R&G Lounge (Kearny and Clay) also serves seafood; Brandy Ho's offers flavour-intensive Hunan chow in a more contemporary setting.
Stan and Charles both praise Asian-fusion The House, a block away on Grant, where I dined and loved my Chinese-style dumplings with shrimp and chives. Steakhouse El Raigon is dubbed 'as close to Buenos Aires as most gringos will ever get' and serves estancia-style beef (Union at Grant). A more American take on the steakhouse is found at Dimaggio's (Green and Grant) - yes, another famous resident of North Beach. Maykadeh (also Green and Grant) does classic Persian cooking; hip Brazilian-Italian fusion Mangarosa is described as 'where the beautiful people go' to sample its innovative menu (Stockton and Green).
Children are welcome but there are no facilities for them and it isn't a very child-friendly place especially for younger ones. Other guests may not be too impressed by kids running up and down the corridor. Families are advised to book the Inviting Room as it has two beds in it, or to book adjacent rooms. There are no cribs although a futon mattress can be provided for an extra bed. Children are free if using existing bedding.
Extra Beds Available