One of the oddest culinary experiences in North Beach is certainly Liguria Bakery, a cash-only, all-focaccia spot on the corner of Stockton and Filbert streets that not only has vintage typewriters in the front window, but displays its phone number in the old, Pennsylvania 6-5000 style: Garfield 13786. You’d better get there before 9:30 or 10 a.m. if you want some pizza or rosemary-and-garlic focaccia, because Liguria runs out early — and if you’re lucky enough to get some, you’ll be sinking your dog teeth into strips of the best of that often-mediocre bread. Do it soon, too, because a handwritten sign in the window says they’re closed for vacation from Aug. 5 to Sept. 3.
Let us all sigh in unison as we imagine the joy of taking a full four weeks off, all at once. And when you’ve reached your focaccia quota for the summer, consider brunch at these un-missably good places elsewhere in North Beach.
Mama’s on Washington Square
1701 Stockton St.
Directly across the street from Liguria, the lines are long and the light fixtures are haute suburban. But Mama is not messing around: This is major breakfast fulfillment, seven days a week. A dozen omelets establish the foundation on which huevos rancheros and a smoked-salmon scramble rest, and there are fully five french toast varieties, including the kugelhopf (house-baked brioche with golden raisins, cinnamon, dates, and sliced almonds). Among the many benedicts, one in particular stands out: The Paisano, topped with pancetta and both red and yellow peppers. Wash it down with one of Uncle Cy’s Spicy Marys, or just let Mama spike your lemonade her way — with Sauvignon Blanc!
570 Green St.
Without a doubt, this is first and foremost a bar. But Pete’s — owned by Pete Mrabe of Don Pisto’s and Chubby Noodle — opens at 10 a.m. on weekends with an eclectic menu that runs from Oahu to the American South. There’s an All-American breakfast that feels like a slimmed down version of a full Irish, plus a Loco Moco plate with a Kobe patty and house gravy. If you need a traditional rib-sticker to get motivated, eggs benedict or good old biscuits and gravy should do it. Everyone knows brunch is an elaborate kabuki exercise to start drinking in broad daylight, and Pete’s $7 cocktails are heavier on the seasonal fruit juices than you might imagine. A must is the Bloody Mary, loaded with goodies to get you through your hangover. The Pretty Girl (fresh-squeezed puree, orange juice, and sparkling wine) is a mimosa on light, gentle steroids, while the personal trainer-approved Hydrator consists of coconut water with a shot of any well liquor. Or you could always get serious with a Primo (Mexican cold-brew syrup, coffee, and tequila).
700 Columbus Ave.
Remember when those tech bros wanted to replace the institution of the corner store with a coldly lit kiosk called Bodega that would sell you a pack of smokes after hours? The world certainly rose up as one to put a stop to that nonsense, didn’t it? Well on the corner of Columbus and Filbert, along Via Bufano, there’s a pair of red lips — and a two-year-old wine bar also known as Bodega. Honey, strawberries, and cheese on toast are where brunch and dessert collide, and here they do so over coffee. There’s avocado toast, there’s mushroom toast, and there’s carnitas tacos, too. You might even get a charcuterie platter. But you’re not going to be buying Juicy Fruit. Wet your lips, baby.
1310 Grant Ave.
In the annals of great ideas that haven’t been tried elsewhere, Chubby Noodle’s bottomless dim sum brunch stands resplendent in a military sash on a very high dais. For $45, you get 90 minutes in which to enjoy whatever your heart desires from among 15 different dishes and four different brunch drinks. It comes with a very specific asterisk in the form of no chugging, no double-fisting, and a general managerial discretion over patrons’ behavior. But you are going to want to dive into kung pao wings, dan dan noodles with spicy peanut sauce, and a breakfast jook made with smoked bacon, egg, chili oil, charred garlic, and scallions. Does a $49 sake carafe sound like your new best friend? Watch what happens: Chubby isn’t even the word.
1652 Stockton St.
James Beard-nominated Park Tavern has the most elegant brunch in North Beach, hands down. Its menu certainly carries more diacritical marks than the competition, from a trout pâté with lemon zest and chervil to a grapefruit brûlée with crème fraîche. There are so many good ways to begin, you might get bogged down in pastries: a coffee cake, a toast with three nut butters and chestnut honey, a simple Breton butter cake. But leave room for some of executive chef Jennifer Puccio’s crispy polenta cakes and the “Marlowe” Burger, purloined from Park Tavern’s sister restaurant. Do your best to keep a straight face upon ordering a Nothing Really (Borghetti espresso liqueur, amaretto, coffee, and Crown Royal whipped cream). We all know what you’re up to.