Original Joe's in North Beach
Original Joe's in North Beach is a classic beloved by locals. Credit: Photo via Original Joe's Facebook Page

Exploring San Francisco's
Legacy Businesses

If you've come to San Francisco to spend a few days living like a local, then you need to know about San Francisco's Legacy Businesses.

The City's official Legacy Business program recognizes nearly 100 local establishments that have helped define the character of San Francisco for more than 30 years. You can find them in every neighborhood, and they run the gamut from bars and restaurants to jewelers and clothing retailers. Spend some time on your next trip visiting these only-in-San-Francisco establishments. You'll get a genuine taste of what it means to be a San Franciscan, a cool glimpse at our local history, and some fun souvenirs and memories.


City Lights Booksellers

261 Columbus Ave.

City Lights has been the literary epicenter of San Francisco for decades, and the authors whose works line its shelves are some of the twentieth century's most influential. Inside the North Beach storefront, you'll find the shelves packed with an extensive and in-depth selection of poetry, fiction, translations, politics, history, philosophy, music, spirituality, and more. Founded by poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, City Lights is world-famous but has retained an intimate, casual, anarchic charm.



1858 Union St. and 756 Irving St.

Founded in 1983, Ambiance has regularly been named among the city's best boutiques. Specializing in women's clothing and accessories, you can shop 'til you drop in either their Marina or Sunset locations.

Rolo San Francisco

2351 Market St.

This Castro menswear store has a global reputation to match its wide-ranging selection of both American and European brands. Find clothes for every season, shoes, bags, and more. You'll put together a look to turn heads at the nearby bars in no time!

Small Frys Children's Store

3985 24th St.

Got a lil' pooka back home who can't wait to see you? Make their day with a gift from Small Frys, a Noe Valley neighborhood institution. They carry a variety of California and international brands for babies and children, stocking sizes from preemie to kids size 10.


Paper Tree

1743 Buchanan St.

Paper Tree has been a part of San Francisco's historic Japantown since 1968. They have the largest selection of origami paper and books on the planet! Find handmade cards, sumi-e brush painting supplies, and lovely Japanese incense. The store even includes its own "World Famous Origami Museum"!


Long Boat Jewelry

754 Grant St.

Located in the heart of Chinatown since 1981, Long Boat Jewelry is known for its unique and beautiful jewelry. Their collection includes exquisite bracelets, necklaces, rings, and earrings with pearls, jade, or precious and semi-precious gems set in gold. Commemorate your trip to San Francisco with something special from Long Boat Jewelry.


Buena Vista Cafe

2765 Hyde St.

The Buena Vista Cafe is widely known for introducing Irish Coffee to the United States in 1952, turning the neighborhood restaurant bar into an international destination. Located at the edge of Fisherman's Wharf, steps from the shoreline and the cable car turnaround, the Buena Vista Cafe is one of the most definitively San Francisco establishments you can visit.

DNA Lounge

375 11th St.

DNA Lounge in SoMa has been one of San Francisco's most popular nightclubs since 1985, hosting an eclectic variety of events. With two stages, four dance floors, seven bars, and a full-service late-night restaurant, you could spend an entire night at DNA Lounge and have a host of different, memorable experiences.

The Eagle

398 12th St.

The Eagle is an institution and the cornerstone of SoMa's recently designated Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District. At The Eagle, you’ll find a broad cross-section of San Francisco, from leather-clad daddies to motorcycle-riding mommas, bears and cubs, and all their friends and fans alike.

El Rio

3158 Mission St.

This beloved Mission District bar is the place to be on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Its back patio fills with revelers who dance the day away. El Rio is a proudly LGBTQ space, but eagerly welcomes everyone to join the party. 


199 Valencia St.

Zeitgeist, at the northwest corner of the Mission, is a bar and beer garden that has proudly been home to misfits, punks, motorcyclists, and bike messengers since 1977. The bar is known for its Bloody Marys, 64 taps of craft beer, and live performances.


Balboa Cafe

3199 Fillmore St.

Balboa Cafe in the Marina has been a San Francisco institution for more than a century. With its signature dishes and cocktails, welcoming and approachable staff, and prime location in one of the city's most walkable neighborhoods, Balboa Cafe is the perfect place to start or end your exploration of this part of town.


56 Gold St.

Tucked away in an alley in San Francisco's historic Jackson Square, BIX's unassuming facade opens into a soaring room of fluted columns, mahogany paneling, plush banquettes, and distinguished artwork. White-jacketed bartenders hold forth behind a gently curved bar, mixing what many have called the city’s best classic cocktails. Variously described as a civilized speakeasy, a supper club, and an elegant saloon, BIX offers modern American cuisine served to the strains of live jazz nightly.

Caffe Trieste

601 Vallejo St.

A fixture in North Beach for generations, Caffe Trieste combines world-famous, impeccable coffee with great live music. Caffe Trieste holds the distinction of being the first espresso coffee house on the West Coast. Caffe Trieste has remained true to its founding principles: Old Italy charm, Bohemian sensibilities, and excellent espresso.

Original Joe's

601 Union St.

Another North Beach institution, Original Joe’s provides hearty portions at reasonable prices. The menu offers hamburgers, steaks, seafood, and pastas in a comfortable setting perfect for big groups and families.


1944 Union St.

Perry’s in the Marina is known for its classic American food, warm personable service, and bustling bar. Its walls are lined with ephemera of local history, and the restaurant plays host to many passionate fanbases throughout football, baseball, and basketball seasons. You won't forget their signature, slim breadsticks!


1965 Al Scoma Way

Set back from the hustle and bustle of Fisherman's Wharf on its own designated pier, Scoma's has an evolving pier-to-plate menu that offers the freshest and most sustainable seafood available. You can watch boats drop off their catch as they arrive each morning.


941 Cole St.

Zazie in Cole Valley serves one of the most sought-after brunches in San Francisco. The small French bistro has an outsized reputation, well earned by its pancakes, assorted eggs benedict, and—of course—its French toast. We promise it's worth the wait!

Click here to learn about more San Francisco Legacy Businesses. 

Tyler Cohn headshot
Tyler Cohn

Tyler is the Sr. Manager of Global Content & Communications at San Francisco Travel. He has lived in San Francisco since 2015 and has been part of the San Francisco Travel team for just as long. He enjoys splashy production numbers and outdoor sporting events equally, which means you can usually find him at one of San Francisco’s many great theaters or at Oracle Park, cheering on the Giants.