Best San Francisco Beatnik Hangouts

March 29, 2011 9:19 AM

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credit:  www.thebeatmuseum.org
Artists, poets, writers and musicians have been flocking to San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood since Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac spilled their own creative juices here decades ago.

They are the reason a nonconformist lifestyle still resonates through the bohemian neighborhood’s bookstores, bars and restaurants 50 years after the first artists came seeking to follow their own beats.

Associated Press travel writer Ananda Shorey offers her recommendations on San Francisco hangouts that can be ‘beat’

The Beat Museum

540 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133
1-800-KER-OUAC
The Beat Museum

Visitors looking for a curated experience can take a historical journey into this counterculture lifestyle at the Beat Museum in the heart of North Beach.

The museum is filled with memorabilia about icons like Neal Cassady, the hero in Kerouac’s “On the Road,” a book about cross-country road trips inspired by drugs, poetry and jazz. It was Cassady, a rebellious car thief who spent two years in San Quentin for selling two joints to an undercover officer in 1958, who invited Kerouac to San Francisco to teach him to write.

beatwalks Best San Francisco Beatnik Hangouts

credit: sites.google.com/site/beatwalks

Beatwalks

beatwalks@gmail.com
Beatwalks

Tour guide John Bilicska Jr., offers visitors a narrated tour through local haunts, like Kerouac and Cassady’s favorite bar, The Place. He also stops at the site where the Co-Existence Bagel Shop stood until 1960, a famous social center where jazz poet Bob Kaufman had regular run-ins with the San Francisco Police Department’s beatnik squad.

On Bilicska’s tour, visitors can also see the North Beach home where Ginsberg was living in 1955 and where he penned most of “Howl.”

City Lights

261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 362-8193
City Lights

The term beatnik was broadly used to describe nonconformist youth, but many felt it never quite fit the older Beat writers who spent much time at places like City Lights bookstore.

Long committed to progressive politics and radical democracy, the same insurgent thinking still remains at City Lights that existed when it was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who remains the owner today. The bookstore’s windows are filled with posters that say things like “Keep Abortion Legal” and “Bush and Cheney’s High Crimes Against Humanity.”

Vesuvio

255 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 362-3370
Vesuvio

Jack Kerouac Alley, so named in 1988, separates City Lights and Vesuvio — a bar where beatnik kits that included fake mustaches, sandals and berets used to be sold.

The North Beach hangout is now filled with tons of Beat photos and posters.

Caffe Trieste

601 Vallejo St
San Francisco, CA
(415) 392-6739
Caffe Trieste

Ginsberg also used to write at Caffe Trieste, where photos of poets like Ferlinghetti line the walls, along with pictures of icons like Francis Ford Coppola, who worked on the script of “The Godfather” there.

Founded by Italian immigrants in 1956, Trieste was reportedly the first espresso house on the West Coast. And today, Ferlinghetti can still regularly be spotted around Caffe Trieste mingling with friends.

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