Poets don’t quite get their due nowadays. Sure you can argue there are some MC’s out there that throw down some rhymes with great lyrics but most rappers are popping Cristal and Ciroc in the VIP at a deafening club. Half a century ago the hippest poets started the beat generation and spawned an entire counter culture movement right here in San Francisco. The face of the movement was Jack Kerouac and his buddies joined him for drinks in North Beach. There is a museum that chronicles the history and all that good stuff, but if you want to drink like a poet because you can’t write like one then hop on down to North Beach and get your snap on.
First thing you should do is just take a peek in City Lights Bookstore, a classic steeped in all sorts of history and people truly do come from all around the world to see it. Right up the street from City Lights is Vesuvio Caffe. Regardless of the fact that Kerouac and Co. read their poems where you could be sitting this place is great. Legit antiques, old liquor adverts, and always a couple seedy regulars make it feel like a place where some sort of artistic inspiration can happen. You can get all the San Francisco staples here, irish coffee, fernet, some local beers, all of them at a good price. Step outside and right next to the bar is Jack Kerouac Alley which got a facelift and has wonderful poems laid into the ground. 100% worth the stumble over.
Across the street you will find a personal favorite, Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe, or just Specs as its known to most people. Another hangout for Kerouac & Co. this place has had the same owner for almost fifty years and you will often see him there smoking and/or drinking. Specs’ also was a hangout for many sailors that came through and would often trade whatever they had from their journeys to settle a bar tab. This is how the bar got all of its wonderful decor and it warrants a walk around just to see some of the crazy doohickeys lying around. Pretty basic behind the bar just don’t order anything fancy because the bartenders have an old brass plaque found in a ship’s boiler that reads “unfit to drink” and will promptly set it down in front of you.
Vesuvio and Specs’ are the most history rich bars as far as Jack & Co. are concerned but you’re in North Beach so greats spots are all over. Up the street you can find live music at Grant & Green or if you’re into live performances strip clubs are indigenous to the area and numerous. If you still like the dark feel of the first two bars check out 15 Romolo on a steep side street, or the popular and noteworthy Comstock Saloon. Both have great cocktails and you can call them ‘speakeasys’ due to the attire of the barkeep and the decor.