Get a bunch of San Franciscans together over snacks and cocktails and invariably the conversation turns to, well, snacks and cocktails. “If you could only eat at one SF restaurant for the rest of your life, what would be?” “Best drink you’ve had recently?” “Best food neighborhood, GO!.” Needless to say, like most big cities, its not just about sustenance and hydration, food and drink are a passion. An obsession.
So whenever I’m asked “What’s your favorite bar in the City?” my answer is always immediate: Tosca. In the interest of full disclosure I have to say that (1) I like bars, not clubs, (2) if I have to shout in a bar, I’ll leave, (3) I hate standing and drinking, so easy seating is very necessary, and (4) if I’m going to a bar and I have to think about what I’m wearing, I assure you, I’m probably not going to make it to that bar.
This is where Tosca comes in. It’s a San Francisco institution that has sat on the main strip of North Beach (Columbus St.) for 90 years. It’s unassuming in every way. You would never know that its a favorite of famous visitors (I saw Naomi Campbell there once and Bono is known to go there when U2’s in town). It is not a “cool” bar. All the cool kids are across the street at Vesuvio, Kerouac’s old haunt (it’s on Jack Kerouac Alley, which is the alley next to the bar where Jack would puke and pass out all the time). Hell, there usually aren’t kids here at all. It’s a lot of older men and women, grabbing a martini or gimlet before heading home for the night.
I love a lot of bars in The City, but I only get excited to go to a small handful, and Tosca is tops on that list. We always end up there on a cold/wet SF night, nights where I curse my decision to go with a scarf and North Face fleece instead of a heavy jacket. I walk in cranky but the minute I see the dim lights, the long wood bar, and the bartenders in white shirts and waistcoats, I’m happy. We’ve never had a problem grabbing one of the cushy red booths and sitting for hours, drinking beer and of course, their specialty coffees. I love their irish coffee and another one (I think it’s called a Nightcap) that is bourbon based.
Seriously. Tosca is the best. I’m smiling just writing about it.