I’ve now spent more time in North Beach than any other neighborhood this year except Lake Merritt in Oakland, (which will always win- it’s where I live), and I’m really loving what I’ve been discovering.
The most pleasant surprise I encountered was Don Pisto’s, an upscale Mexican restaurant practically concealed in an otherwise plain looking building on Union Street above Columbus. There is no name on the front of the restaurant, just a small menu with short plat descriptions, prices, and the address and phone number. Here, Pete, the owner, welcomes you to come in, sit down, and make yourself at home. Pete dresses casually, belying the classiness of the restaurant and complexity of the dishes. Food at Don Pisto’s is what you’d expect from a Mexican restaurant, but in name only. They have tacos, tostadas, tortilla soup and other such staples, but all their dishes contain subtle riffs on the average Mexican food tune. Their burger, marinated overnight in bacon and sauteed onions, was recently ranked #10 on 7×7 Magazine’s “Top 100 things to to try before you die 2011” list. Adam and Niño staff the busy kitchen, while Nick directs patrons to tables, makes cocktails, rings up bills and pops beer caps. Nick is also a vintner, and recently made his first cabernet, which he sells to restaurants throughout the city.
You can most easily find the restaurant by walking up Union from Columbus and looking to your left for the small Kingdom Cake window, then continuing up Union another 75 feet or so. But don’t pass Kingdom Cake too quickly. Their locally-baked cupcakes draw rave reviews from customers, and Myles, the resident cupcake slinger will happily talk to you at length about San Francisco and the Giants, (although probably not in that order).
Elvis Christ, a local personality/poet/artist has also put his stamp on the ‘hood with his clever sayings that put strange twists on well-known sayings. Here are some photos of his work, which I found at the corner of Grant and Vallejo.
Until next time friends, leave the flying to me!