This past week I ventured into North Beach to take a yoga class with my favorite instructor, Peter Walters, at Glow Yoga on Stockton Street. I arrived early and had found myself in a place of total meltdown, low blood sugar, starving. I thought - no problem, I'm early, I'll just find a little café and order a snack. Apparently in North Beach, this is easier said than done.
Thirty very hungry minutes later, I had lugged through every street in North Beach. Yoga bag, laptop, extra clothes, work binders, all in tow. I was sweating through my silk top, and my no-show socks had slipped into non-existence where blisters took their place. There was nothing to eat. With each café I passed, the only available snacks were coffee drinks and Italian pastry foods. Pasta, pizza, and desserts that were clearly neither organic nor dairy-free. It was my nightmare. It made me acknowledge the [much more serious] topic of Food Deserts that exist all over the nation, and even just down the peninsula near San Francisco. This is a complete injustice deeming my recent experiences undoubtedly trivial however, I will address that in another post. For now, I must highlight the beacon of hope in North Beach.
Enter: Beacon Coffee & Pantry.
Finally, on my tiny Google maps screen, I see Beacon Coffee & Pantry just several streets away. I backtrack because this trendy little specialty coffee shop must have something to acceptable offer.
Luckily, I was not disappointed. I walked into a very calm and inviting open space, with iced water at the ready, Sightglass coffee, and a variety of artisanal food products. Locals seemed to be working from their laptops (the WiFi is free), taking business meetings, or just enjoying a book alone. A chalkboard showed me the snack options for the day, which varied from a kale and almond salad to a hummus + vegetable sandwich.
It wasn't entirely surprising that North Beach was filled with Italian pastry shops, as it's San Francisco's "Little Italy," and has historically been home to a large Italian-American population. The residential inventory in the neighborhood is low, and the turnover is even lower. Following its reconstruction after the 1906 earthquake, a large number of Italian immigrants created the Italian character of the neighborhood that still exists today.
In the 1950s, these same bars and restaurants I shunned served as the dynamic epicenter of the Beat Generation. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and Neal Cassady all lived in the neighborhood. Joe DiMaggio grew up in a flat at Valparaiso and Taylor. The neighborhood seeps in rich history - Grant Avenue itself is the oldest street in San Francisco.
North Beach is a place to behold and respect, but for me seemingly, not a place to eat. Check out Beacon Coffee & Pantry next time you need a healthy bite, and let me know what you think.