Few San Francisco neighborhoods have a small village vibe quite like Bernal Heights.
This little 'hood on the hill is known for its quiet and quaint character, spectacular views, lush farmers market, colorful homes, friendly people, and an unfair amount of sunshine. Here's your guide to Cortland Avenue and its surrounds.
Restaurants + Bars
When it comes to dining, even seemingly far-flung Bernal is a bona fide destination. Foodies make the pilgrimage for modern sushi offerings at Ichi Sushi (3369 Mission St.), which recently returned to its original location here. // We could pretty much eat the meatloaf and Key lime pie at Blue Plate (3218 Mission St.) everyday. // What began as a pop-up in 2012 turned brick-and-mortar in 2013 is today a favorite of the neighborhood: Hillside Supper Club (300 Precita Ave.) serves up slow food–style meals at brunch (brioche French toast, smoked trout hash) and dinner (squid ink spaghetti, chicken pot pie). Go for the $40 three-course pre-fixe on Sunday nights. // Delightful food and friendly service, Little Nepal (925 Cortland Ave.) is a nice change of pace for Indian food lovers. We cannot get enough of their Nepalese dishes such as lentil soup and kukhurako ledo, a luscious chicken dish with creamy tomato sauce. // Bernal Star (410 Cortland Ave.) is ideal for brunch, burgers in the backyard, and the occasional movie screening. // Whopping meatballs atop thick spaghetti and buttery garlic bread are always a good idea at Bernal institution Emmy's Spaghetti Shack (3230 Mission St.). // Opened by longtime Bernal residents, Red Hill Station (803 Cortland Ave.) spotlights the bounty of California farmers and fishermen. Slurp $1.50 oysters and half-price beer and wine during their daily happy (3-6pm). // For a slice of pie, look no further than Pizzahacker (3299 Mission St.). // Old Devil Moon (3472 Mission St.) is an occult-themed pub serving Southern-inspired eats. The Black Magic brunch is bomb, with sink-your-teeth-in fare such as fried chicken sliders, cheddar beer biscuits and gravy, and shrimp and grits. Bonus points for Boulevardiers on draft. // From the team behind Churchill and an alum of Bourbon & Branch, Holy Water (309 Cortland Ave.) is sacred ground for cocktail connoisseurs. Go for perfectly poured Moscow Mules and Old Fashioneds; stay after 11pm for a taste of something more exotic. // Some would call it for the Mission, but we say Bernal gets to claim everybody's favorite day-drinking and dance spot, El Rio (3158 Mission St.).
Bakeries + Coffee
For all those still mourning the closure of Sandbox Bakery, Black Jet Baking Co. (833 Cortland Ave.) has arrived. Pop in for the classics—cookies, cakes, pies, and jam bars—but also try the simple breakfast and lunch; the menu includes granola, toast, and a PB&J on homemade challah bread. // Little Bee Baking (521 Cortland Ave.) makes cakes, pies, and pastries to spoil your dinner. But best of all for lazy bakers is the take-home, pre-made dough. // Progressive Grounds (400 Cortland Ave.) is the neighborhood's old-school coffee house. No fancy subway tiles or concrete countertops here—just good coffee, salads, sandwiches, wraps, desserts, and a choice working space with WiFi. For more serenity, check out their backyard. // The newer kid on the block, Pinhole Coffee (231 Cortland Ave.) is already insta-famous thanks to its funky murals and Leah Rosenberg–painted stripes. Serving Linea Coffee and treats from Marla Bakery and Little Bee, Pinhole is the new gathering spot.
Go tea and honey tasting at Chamalyn (317 Cortland Ave.), a bright and airy spot with a diverse assortment of speciality ingredients. Feel free to sample your heart out a before making your purchase. // The down-to-earth Alemany Farmers Market (Alemany Blvd., map) may not have all the fancy trappings (and tourists) of the Ferry Building, but this Saturday market (6am to 2:30pm) does promise some of the best prices on local produce in the city.
THINGS TO DO
Cannabis + Shopping
Easily the most exciting store to arrive in Bernal in recent history, Harvest (33 29th St.) is the neighborhood's new go-to for high grade cannabis. This second location of the dispensary offers a curated selection of local products (look for such brands as Legion of Bloom and Kin Slips), daily specials, a lounge for members, and plenty cool in-store events. // For wardrobe staples, jewelry and home accessories with worldly appeal, 12 Small Things (513 Cortland Ave.) showcases hand-selected pieces from 12 rotating artisans from India, Tibet and Haiti. // Dive into the world of terrariums, moss walls and cacti at Succulence (402 Cortland Ave.), one of the cutest flower shops around. Also pick up decor, books, and everything you need to build a Pinterest-worthy succulent garden. // For over 30 years, Heartfelt (436 Cortland Ave.) has supplied the 'hood with every fun, gifty, tchotchke thing that playful hearts desire—from colorful socks to cookbooks to dishware to party hats. // Alemany Flea Market (100 Alemany Blvd., Sundays 7am to 3pm) is smaller than the beloved Alameda Flea, but it's also way more affordable and more walkable. You'll find vintage clothes, baseball cards, 1950s china, '30s movie posters, and all sorts of unexpected treasures. Sharpen your bargaining skills and arrive as early as possible. // At last, electric bikes are stylish. At The New Wheel(420 Cortland Ave.), they'll help you find your just-right ride and then customize it to the max.
Parks + More
Located at the northernmost border of the 'hood, Precita Park (2200 Folsom St.) has ample green space, picnic tables (which can be reserved), a butterfly garden, and playground. In the summer, catch an outdoor movie with your kids or pup. Grab a sandwich from the adjacent Precita Park Cafe and stretch out on a sunny day. // A climb to the top of the summit at Bernal Heights Park (3400-3416 Folsom St., map) rewards tired legs with sweeping views of the city and, on a clear day, the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. // While strolling Cortland Avenue, be sure to stop in front of the Bernal Heights Public Library (500 Cortland Ave.) for a glimpse of the mural representing the colorful vibe of San Francisco. Map
This article has been updated since it was originally published in May 2014.