Bernal Heights, just south of the Mission District of San Francisco, is a cute, eclectic neighborhood that was once very working class, but is becoming quickly gentrified. Sister to the Castro, this neighborhood is very popular with the lesbian community. The main commercial drag of the neighborhood is located along Cortland Avenue.
The MUNI Metro J-Church line runs along the western boundary of the area from downtown. From the J line you can just walk into the area or easily transfer to one of the following MUNI bus lines:
- 24-Divisadero from the Church and 30th Metro station. From the station, you can take the #24 east down 30th Street and Cortland Avenue through Bernal Heights before continuing onto Bayview-Hunters Point.
- 23-Monterey from the Glen Park station. From the station, the #23 heads up Bosworth and Mission Streets before turning right onto Crescent Avenue, running along the southern end of the district and into Bayview-Hunters Point.
Other bus routes which serve the area include the 14-Mission and the 49-Mission/Van Ness, which run right down Mission Street from the north and south, and the 67-Bernal Heights, which runs through much of Bernal Heights from the 24th Street BART station.
- Bernal Heights neighborhood. Take a wander around losing yourself amongst the pretty houses and the charm, it's a fine way to spend an afternoon.
- 1 Bernal Hill. The top is more than 40 acres of grassy open space, with views of the San Francisco Bay and Mt. Diablo to the east, downtown San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, Twin Peaks and Noe Valley to the west and a rise of hills leading up to San Bruno Mountain in the south. People come and run their dogs here and watch eclipses, sunrises, sunsets, the Blue Angels and wildlife. There's been a celebrated coyote since 2003; recent sightings confirm it's still there. There are nooks and crannies and stairs and weeds and it's a big, big, well-loved back yard.
- 1 Bernal Yoga, 908 Cortland Ave (at Folsom), ☎ . If what you want in a yoga studio is a lot of hot, tight young bodies bending away in spandex, well, Bernal Yoga has that. But it's also got a lot of older practitioners, less fit practitioners, moms-to-be and moms-returning-to-shape, and a set of instructors that really know the meaning of "all levels classes." The soulful, welcoming, peaceful community is run by sister-and-brother team Savonn and Bill Wyland, who keep things varied with frequent guest instructors and quarterly literary events, which attract nationally-known poets and fiction writers.
- 1 Alemany Farmers Market, 100 Alemany Blvd (at Bayshore), ☎ . Sa dawn-dusk. Forget the farmers market at the Ferry Building, unless you just can't live without the high prices and the most fashionable vegetables. San Francisco's original 1943 farmer's market is where it's at. It was founded by the Victory Garden Council as a WWII ag-surplus depot! Rock-bottom cheap, we-picked-it-at-3AM fresh, it's where elderly Asian ladies swarm piles of fresh peanuts and carefully pick out the live chicken to bring home. It has flowers at unbelievable prices and a really stellar selection of basic fruits, nuts, tubers and vegetables, and exotic Asian produce. There aren't that many organic farmers, but there are some. Get there early for salad greens and Euro-American vegetables, as these go fast. The fish market is mixed but sometimes has good local catches.
- 2 Badger Books, 401 Cortland Ave (at Bennington), ☎ . 10AM-8PM daily. A good neighborhood magazine stand, with new and used books, albeit smaller than Dog Eared Books.
- 3 Good Life Grocery, 448 Cortland Ave (between Andover and Bennington), ☎ . 8AM-9PM daily. People tend to have a love-hate relationship with this grocery store on the busy Cortland/Andover corner. On one hand, it's a fine, manageably-sized market with all the quality brands of pasta, meat, dairy, condiments, juices, vegetarian staples, etc. that you would hope for in a neighborhood with a significant upscale, foodie population. On the other hand, the prices are high, and it would be really nice to be able to purchase a razor blade or non-natural hair conditioner. Great wine selection and recommendations, though.
Restaurants of every price and cuisine are found on Mission St between Cesar Chavez and Brook St – too many to list here. Cortland Ave is also a popular corridor.
- 1 Baby Blues BBQ, 3149 Mission St (between Cesar Chavez St and Powers Ave), ☎ . Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. Slightly overpriced gourmet BBQ with hot waitresses.
- 2 Blue Plate, 3218 Mission St (at Valencia), ☎ . M-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F–Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, Su 5:30PM-9:30PM. Expensive but wonderful "New American" cuisine with impressive artwork on the walls, and racy photography in the bathrooms. The macaroni and cheese is a must.
- 3 Emmy's Spaghetti Shack, 18 Virginia Ave (between 29th and 30th), ☎ . Su-Th 5:30PM-10:30PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-11:30PM. A fun, casual restaurant for hipsters. Do not expect fine dining or "authenticity" - just good spaghetti and big meatballs (the Caesar salad is delish, too). Beware the dangerous dive bar next door.
- 4 The Front Porch, 65a 29th St (at Mission). 5:30PM-10:30PM. Well prepared southern food. Fried chicken and fried okra are favorites.
- 5 Good Frikin' Chicken, 10 29th St (at Mission), ☎ . M-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-9PM. Excellent middle-eastern chicken. Specializes in rotisserie and grilled whole chicken. Often runs out of rotisserie before 8PM
- 6 Liberty Cafe, 410 Cortland Ave (between Bennington and Wool), ☎ . Cafe: Tu-F 10AM-2:30PM and 5:30PM-10PM, Sa-Su 9AM-3PM and 5:30PM-10PM. Bakery: Tu-F 7AM-5PM, Sa-Su 7:30AM-5PM. This is one of those places that would be perfect for a business lunch, a dinner with visiting family or any other time you want relaxed elegance. The reviews about its pot pies are quite true. They're better than your mother used to make. There's a tiny narrow walkway to a back courtyard and cottage that's a bakery for your baguettes, cafe au lait, warm raspberry bran muffins and brioches by day, and a wine bar by night.
- 7 Martha & Bros, 745 Cortland Ave (between Anderson and Ellsworth), ☎ . M-Sa 5:15AM-8PM, Su 6AM-7PM. Hands down, the strongest coffee on the strip. Martha & Bros. is part of a six-shop San Francisco chain. The smiling, mostly Hispanic female staff, crack-of-dawn hours (it opens at 5:30AM), big pastries and reasonable prices make the place a favorite of newspaper readers, working men and the California Highway Patrol.
- 8 Mitchell's Ice Cream, 688 San Jose Ave (at 29th St), ☎ . 11AM-11PM daily. Mitchell's has been serving the best ice cream and sorbets in SF since 1953. Choose from traditional fare or exotic flavors such as avocado, buko (baby coconut), guava, langka (jackfruit), macapuno (sweet coconut), mango, pineapple and ube (purple yam).
- 9 Moki's Sushi & Pacific Grill, 615 Cortland Ave (between Anderson and Moultrie), ☎ . Su-Th 5:30PM-9:30PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM. This peach-walled fish chop shop serves fun maki rolls, including a variety with tempura'd ingredients. Its also got killer barbeque spare ribs with wasabi mashed potatoes and steamed greens on its small-plates menu. A good time, often packed, so get there early.
- 10 Moonlight Cafe, 634 Cortland Ave (between Anderson and Moultrie), ☎ . M-F 6:30AM-6PM, Sa-Su 7AM-5PM. A creperie with some great taste sensations. If you're hungry, the Mediterranean platter will fill you up. The toasted bagels with cream cheese, sun-dried tomato and cucumber are perfect, as is the lavender or ginger lemonade.
- 11 Progressive Grounds, 400 Cortland Ave (at Bennington), ☎ . M-F 6:30AM-8PM, Sa-Su 7:30AM-8PM. A perfect Bernal Heights cafe. Serves up some great coffee drinks and a good selection of salads and lavash wrapped sandwiches. The hummus will make anyone think twice about buying hummus from a grocery store again. Great service. A great place for all types and ages. Kids have their fun with Enzo and his assorted instruments every Sunday. PG also has a nice garden space in the back.
- 12 Taqueria Can-cun (not to be confused with Cancun), 3211 Mission St (at Valencia St), ☎ . M-Th 9AM-12:45AM, F-Sa 9AM-2:45AM, Su 9AM-1AM. Simply the best taqueria in San Francisco, especially if you've had a few drinks at the Knockout or Argus Lounge. The Quesadilla Suiza with some horchata to sip on is just killer.
- 13 Zante Pizza, 3489 Mission St (at Cortland), ☎ . 11AM-3PM, 5PM-11PM daily. Indian pizza! Need we say more?
- 1 The Knockout, 3223 Mission St (at Valencia), ☎ . A quirky hipster bar with old arcade games and on some nights, live bands of varying talent.
- 2 Rock Bar, 80 29th St (at Mission). Neighborhood bar with strong, affordable, and creative cocktails. Owned by the same people as the Front Porch, across the street.
- 3 The Royal Cuckoo, 3202 Mission St (at Valencia), ☎ . A new cocktail bar serving outstanding Manhattans and other more unusual concoctions in a setting that feels like an old hunting lodge. A must if you like sipping bourbon and other aperitifs to old-timey music.
- 4 Skip's Tavern, 453 Cortland Ave (at Wool), ☎ . Live blues music spills from this dive located in the heart of Bernal Heights. Good for a game of pool or darts. The bright lights destroy any potential ambiance.
- 5 VinoRosso, 629 Cortland Ave (at Anderson), ☎ . M-F 4PM-11PM, Sa noon-11PM, Su 2PM-10PM. A great little wine bar with emphasis on Italian varieties.
- 6 Wild Side West, 424 Cortland Ave (at Wool), ☎ . 1PM-2AM daily. Although technically a lesbian bar, this neighborhood watering hole welcomes all. Inexpensive beer flows from the taps. In the winter time, a fire burns in the main room, which includes a small pool table. But the most interesting aspect to this bar is the outside garden in the back, best enjoyed on warmer days and nights. The garden is heavily decorated with sculptures and lights. Find a nook to cuddle up with a loved one while sipping a drink.
- 1 San Francisco Public Library - Bernal Heights Branch, 500 Cortland Ave (at Andover), ☎ . Su closed, M 10AM-6PM, Tu 10AM-9PM, W 1PM-9PM, Th 10AM-6PM, F-Sa 1PM-6PM.