Drinks ‘n’ nibbles in North Beach, at Campanula Kitchen
North Beach has long been one of San Francisco’s most popular neighborhoods for an early evening stroll. It’s dense with terrific little tourist spots, from one-time Beatnik hangouts like the Vesuvio bar and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s still-going-strong City Lights Books, to Diego Rivera murals, to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul with its creepy statue of Saint Lucia holding her eyeballs on a platter.
While a perfectly pulled espresso has never been hard to find in this historically Italian American enclave (Try the legendary Caffe Trieste, or the wedge-shaped Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store) dining options have tended to lean heavily toward the heavy: Mega-portions of red sauced pasta and other Little Italy staples. But last year saw the welcome opening of Campanula Kitchen, a great spot to drop by for nibbles and drinks without weighing yourself down.
On the sunny southwest corner of Washington Square, Campanula’s floor-to-ceiling windows provide a terrific view of the comings-and-goings of the neighborhood’s dramatis personae (hipster artistes, Sicilian grannies, Chinatown cool kids, and, yes, the dreaded gentrifiers). Look up a little higher and take in one of the best views of Coit Tower in town. Now, turn your attention to the menu of small plates.