Tosca Cafe | North Beach | San Francisco

One of the best cocktail bars of old San Francisco is in North Beach on Columbus Ave. between Broadway and Pacific. The barkeeps are sharp looking with the classic white coats of the past and can make any old-fashioned cocktail to your liking. Irish coffees are particularly good here, made with Tully’s to perfection.

In the way of unique drinks they have a hot chocolate brandy that will keep you warm during those wintry days of summer when the fog is locked in.

Its long bar, vintage red vinyl booths and tables in the back provide ample seating. The red lights and red vinyl give it a peculiar luminosity; dark and warm. Good to go alone with a notebook or something to read, or with a group and just hang back in the red glow.

A former Hunter S. Thompson haunt, even when empty, the long lacquered bar seems populated with ghosts of San Francisco’s lost writers. The jukebox is full of old crooners, oldies and good tunes that make you feel like clearing out a few tables and having a go at a dance.

You’ll find all different sorts here, from businessmen to beatniks, but it’s not a typical tourist hangout like other places in North Beach. You get a sense of old San Francisco and can taste it in the drinks. Unpretentious yet refined, beat but not dingy, old-school but not boring.

Feels like drinking on celluloid, sounds like Elvis on opium, tastes like burgundy on the breath. Tosca is a timeless classic.

-written forThirsty SF: The lowdown on where real people drink. 2008

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