Little Vine Shops - San Francisco

A sweet specialty-food shop transforms North Beach

When we talk about food deserts, we don't usually mean North Beach.

Still, though the neighborhood is chockablock full of bars and touristy red-sauce joints (and a few stellar old-world holdouts), it's not a great place for the home cook.

So Little Vine, which opened last week, is an oasis. The Grant Street shop is filled with a well-curated selection of comestibles, a kind of miniature Bi-Rite Market.

You can get hulking Marin Sun Farms beef rib chops and chickens, eggs from Soul Food Farm, olive oil by the ounce, and an impressive array of cheeses (both local and not), cared for by a staff member who is also a Cowgirl Creamery veteran.

The shop is also only one of two spots in the city where you can buy dried sausage and coppa made by Il Mondo Vecchio, a Denver-based salumist whose Calabrese-style salami thrums with paprika and hot and black peppers.

Little Vine is also one of a few places that carry the soon-to-be-legendary pastries from Oakland's Starter Bakery, including baker Brian Wood's sugar-laden kouign amann.

Coffee is of the pour-over variety, sourced from San Francisco-based Bicycle Coffee, and by the time you read this, the store will also be serving what has already become its most requested item: sandwiches to go.

Little Vine, 1541 Grant Ave.; 415-738-2221 or