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Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store and Cafe: Leti and the world class meatball sandwich
This is probably my favorite hangout for lunch in North beach.
There are 3 reasons:
- the feel of the place;
- the meatball sandwiches & baked eggplant parmigian;
- the lady in the picture.
Her name was Letizia (everyone called her Leti) and she is a trip to watch & talk to.
I liked to sit at the bar and enjoy the show, watching Leti fling things in and out of the oven, schmoozing and chiding everyone in the place.
Don't let her fool ya' ... she is a sweetheart.
Mario's is small but very comfortable, and the food is imho one of the best deals in town.
Favorite Dish: Eggplant Parmigiana and arguably some of the best meatball sandwiches around ... served focaccia style.
Wash it down with a half-carafe of the house red.
Leave a respectable tip, or Leti might have to brain you with her large long-handled wooden oven spatula on your way out
Don't worry about the shop name, there's no tobacco smoke in the place
July '05 update: Leti has left Mario's and is now working at a cafe in Sausalito :(
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe: In the heart of North Beach
This is kind of a "hole in the wall", but where you can often find the best food. I found it by walking down Columbus Ave. I really can't describe the atmosphere-I invite you to stop in and see for yourself. If you're looking for somewhere modern, this may not be the place for you-it's a bit more rustic. I rather like the piped in Italian music-it really makes a terrific mood. Sit at the bar, or at a small table, and meet some friendly people.
Favorite Dish: I'm partial to the meatball sandwich, on focaccia bread. They have several other types of sandwiches, and pizzas too.
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe: Perfect People-Watching Bistro
I think I probably ate lunch here the majority of the time I was last in San Francisco. This place doesn't really sell cigars (and of course it's "illegal" to smoke inside a California eatery) but the ambience is reminscent of the kind of place where you'd love to pop in and have a bite to eat.
Their specialty is the grilled focaccia sandwich - you can get just about any variety. They're delicious!!!
Aside from the lunch fare, this is one of the best places for people-watching...situated on the corner, right next to Washington Square Park...you can see the Sts. Peter and Paul Church (where Marilyn Monroe was photographed with Joe DiMaggio after they married) from practically any vantage point inside the bistro.
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store
Deeeelicious foccacia sandwiches. Also, FYI, they no longer sell cigars. However, if you ask really nice, they will give you a free refill on your Italian soda.
Favorite Dish: Chicken and artichoke heart foccacia sandwich, with lots of melty provolone! MMMM
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store: A Small Cafe in North Beach
A good place for lunch and coffee or beer. Mario's is a small cafe that offers espresso and a full bar. The menu is limited to mostly focaccia sandwiches and a couple of salads. Don had an eggplant focaccia and I had a grilled chicken caesar salad. All the food is prepared fresh behind the bar.
Favorite Dish: The grilled eggplant focaccia was out of this world!
Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe: The Amazing Breaded Eggplant Sandwich
I've been to this North Beach favorite many times (I make it a point to stop in every time I'm in SF). It's a narrow restaurant infused with local history, and is always busy, an intersection of colorful North Beach characters as well as tourists. The breaded eggplant sandwhich is the only thing I've ever ordered here, and it's all I ever need to try. It's simply the best.
If you're not hungry, stop in anyway for a beer or a coffee. Actually, go for the beer. Save the coffee stop for Cafe Trieste around the corner.
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