Best Eurotrash Hangout (After North Beach) - 2003
The romantic's vision of Paris -- a leisurely glass of wine at an open-air cafe -- doesn't translate easily in fogbound San Francisco. But some locals are so besotted with the European ideal that they will take that outdoor table at Belden Place and have that vin rouge even when the winds blustering through the Financial District are brisk enough to make their teeth chatter and their fingers practically freeze around their glass stems. Like those in certain touristy quarters of Europe (and much of North Beach), the French, Spanish, and Mediterranean restaurants on this little alley position cute waiters with pronounced accents to stand in the doorways and cajole would-be diners to come inside. Those who do will find some respectable cooking, and enough Paris Metro signage to deepen the wine-induced nostalgia. But Belden's charm really does lie outdoors, weather be damned: It's where the crowd masses every Bastille Day, and where the city's European tourists and French expats can be found enjoying a distinctly non-San Franciscan pleasure -- smoking.