North Beach is rife with legendary, historic bars, from Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe to Tosca Cafe. Another one of the Italian ’hood’s bar legends (since 1948) is Vesuvio. It’s not about the drinks. It never really was. Being next door to City Lights bookstore, Vesuvio was one of the key Beat Poet hangouts of Kerouac and Ginsberg, with its eclectic, bilevel setting feeling as much quirky artists’ cafe as one-of-a-kind bar.
THE DRINK TO DRINK: Though the bar is less about its menu than its unparalleled personality, drink aficionados will be pleased to find an absinthe focus and simple but pleasing offerings, like a pour of Chartreuse with a soda back.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Climb up narrow, creaking stars to the upstairs mezzanine with a book and a beer to watch the bustle of Columbus Avenue and Jack Kerouac Alley go by.