Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe 566 Columbus Ave./Union St., North Beach, (415) 362-0536.
Cigars are no longer sold in this cozy atmospheric retreat across from Washington Square Park, but, fortunately, hot oven-baked focaccia sandwiches are. I come for the food and stay longer for the music--“House of the Rising Sun,” Johnny B. Goode,” “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Mario’s is most famous for their delicious meatball and eggplant sandwiches (I can vouch for both) made with grilled onions and melted Swiss cheese. The menu also offers a fresh mozzarella di bufala Caprese (you can add prociutto) plus hot panini, pizza, and hot entrees. Drinks include beer and wine, but I prefer a fruit-flavored Italian soda, specialty coffee, or comforting steamed almond milk. Tables with a view of the park are available inside and out, and a vintage oak bar with stools is the perfect perch for singles.
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyer