Feel The Bern: Bernal Heights Neighborhood Guide

Perched atop a hill traced by a grid of narrowly inclined roads is the meaty centerpiece of the Bernal Heights hotbed neighborhood: Bernal Heights Park. The summit of this park, elevated at 433 feet, is another aerial jaw-dropper in the bountiful list of Instagram-worthy viewpoints

This landmark survived the 1906 earthquake and the fire that followed, making this not just a patch of pretty, but a historic symbol of San Francisco’s resilience akin to Chicago’s Water Tower. As such, Bernal Heights Park has every element necessary to be a proper San Francisco tourist hotspot with its incomparable panoramic views while remaining peacefully untarnished by tourist traffic. If you’re on the hunt for a respite from people-packed Dolores Park, this puppy-plush bedrock awaits.

Dog walkers at Bernal Heights Park. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.
Dog walkers at Bernal Heights Park. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.

Dream homes line the circumference of this colorful landmark. Edwardian, Victorian, and Queen Anne homes wrap around the historic park in addition to contemporary, geometric, and high-tech homes. The park and its surrounding arrondissement are sprinkled with delightfully artful details, like an orange-painted rock with a heart design overlooking the northern view of the Bay. At the top of the summit is an in-the-works mural project crawling with Physiologus-esque animal symbolism.

Bernal Heights Park’s neighbor, Holly Park, is a fun-sized pocket of green about a mile south. This lightly populated yet vibrant park is equipped with the playground of your childhood dreams, basketball and tennis courts, a baseball field, and a wooden-fenced barbeque and picnic area.

Bernal Heights Public Library. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.
Bernal Heights Public Library. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.

The valley in between these two towering parks hosts the endearing and fashionable commercial district of Cortland Avenue. Splayed with urban thoroughfare, this chirpy environment balances a rare combination of characteristics both chic and welcoming. Here, you may build a terrarium, pop by the public library to check out Armistead Maupin’s Tales the the City, or do some pilates before you indulge in the plethora of food and beverages.

Glimmers of this district’s action-packed history can be traced in its subtle American Old West details, weaving together a pastiche of urban contemporary and nuanced cowboy aesthetics. Importantly, Bernal Heights escapes the fog belt, thus having sunnier, clearer weather than most of the City.

In January 2014, Bernal Heights’ North Slope microhood was ranked the nation’s hottest neighborhood by Redfin Research. Since then, median sales prices in the neighborhood have increased by more than 24%, from $1,047,500 in January 2014 to $1,300,000 in March 2017. The median sales price peaked in October 2016 at $1,400,000. Click here to search homes for sale in Bernal Heights.

Get the most out of this rising, dog-friendly San Francisco village with our hand-picked neighborhood guide.

Where to Eat in Bernal Heights

Baby Blues BBQ
$$ | 3149 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA
If you’re a fan of BBQ, then you must make your way to Bernal Heights and pay Baby Blues BBQ a visit. Upon entry, your senses will be overcome by the sweet, sweet smell of hickory, smokey BBQ. Hearty portions of ribs, brisket, links, and more, ranging from Memphis to Texas style options is what you’ll find during your time here. With a spacious dining area and friendly Southern hospitality, Baby Blues is a great place to bring the family or just some friends for a fantastic dining experience.
Order: Memphis Ribs, Cornbread, Mac & Cheese
Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 11:30AM – 10PM, Friday – Saturday: 11:30AM – 11PM
Website: Baby Blues BBQ

Interior of 3rd Cousin. Photo: 3rd Cousin.
Interior of 3rd Cousin. Photo: 3rd Cousin.

3rd Cousin
$$$ | 919 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA
The latest venture of decorated Chef, Greg Lutes, this Californian and New American restaurant is everything you’ve been looking for. With roots stemming from a farming community near by Chicago, Chef Lutes has been able to maintain an approachable feel to his culinary creations while being able to innovatively incorporate different flavors to achieve a more elegant appeal. Upon your visit try their tasting menu, wine pairings, and enjoy an excellent dining experience.
Order: Uni Crème Brûlée, Pappardelle
Hours: Sunday – Monday: Closed, Tuesday – Saturday: 5:30PM – 10PM
Website: www.3rdcousinsf.com

The Front Porch
$$ | 65A 29th Street, San Francisco, CA
A dimly lit, intimate eatery, equipped with an outdoor seating area, a full bar, and a menu filled with heart warming, Southern / cajun goodness. The Front Porch is one of the best places to go to for brunch and dinner. With fried chicken and beignets that are to die for, this is definitely a must try whenever you’re in the neighborhood.
Order: Beignets, Fried Chicken, Blue Crab Hush Puppies
Hours: Monday – Friday: 5:30PM – 10:30PM, Saturday: 10AM – 10:30PM, Sunday: 10AM – 10PM
Website: www.thefrontporchsf.com

Where to Drink in Bernal Heights

El Rio
$ | 3158 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA
Since 1978, El Rio has been serving Bernal Heights with great pours, friendly service, and providing patrons with a fun hassle free watering hole. El Rio has earned numerous awards for best dive bar, best small live music venue, best neighborhood bar, best dog friendly bar, best gayish bar, and so many more. With a heated backyard patio space, festive decor, a kicking happy hour, and the occasional live entertainment, what more could you possibly ask for?
Order: Beer & Shots
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 1PM – 2AM
Website: www.elriosf.com

Inside Holy Water. Photo: Holy Water, Facebook.
Inside Holy Water. Photo: Holy Water, Facebook.

Holy Water
$$ | 309 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA
With an interior donned with chandeliers made from old bibles and shelves filled with glass flasks that were actually used to hold holy water, every visit to this bar is an enchanting experience. Holy Water maintains a rotation of well curated, well mixed cocktails from classics like old fashions to in-house concoctions like the “After the Gold Rush”. They also host a strong line-up of hard-to-find beers on tap at all times. Head to Holy Water and grab a seat because after a couple of cocktails, you’ll definitely need one.
Order: After the Gold Rush, Pineapple Gum
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 4PM – 2AM, Sunday: 2PM – 2AM
Website: www.holywatersf.com

Wild Side West
$ | 424 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Established in 1962, Bernal Heights’ Wild Side West is a landmark for San Francisco’s lesbian and LGBTQ community. While lesbian-owned watering hole has become more of a local’s dive in recent years, it is worth noting it is the last-standing lesbian bar in the City. Come here for billiards, jukebox tunes, or to enjoy a drink out on the back patio.
Order: Beer
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 2PM – 2AM
Website: www.wildsidewest.com

Where to Caffeinate in Bernal Heights

Pinhole Coffee. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.
Pinhole Coffee. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.

Pinhole Coffee
$ | 231 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Located in Bernal Height’s commercial corridor on Cortland Avenue, Pinhole Coffee is a café with cute coming out the wazoo. With a colorful picturesque interior filled with art on the wall and great locally sourced offerings, it’s no wonder why Pinhole Coffee is a neighborhood favorite.
Order: Mocha, Latte, Cookies
Hours: Monday – Friday: 6:30AM – 6PM, Saturday – Sunday: 7:30AM – 6PM
Website: www.pinholecoffee.com

Progressive Grounds 
$ | 400 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA
A spacious coffee house with ample seating space and an outdoor patio area, Progressive Grounds is the perfect place to cozy up with a nice cup of joe and catch up on some work. They also offer a full food menu with gluten-free options composed of salads, pastries, wraps, sandwiches, and even ice cream from Mitchell’s!
Order: Iced Chai Latte
Hours: Monday – Friday: 6:30AM – 8PM, Saturday – Sunday: 7:30AM – 8PM
Website: Progressive Grounds

Little Bee Bakery
$$ | 521 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Crafted with only the finest locally sourced ingredients, Little Bee Bakery has come to be known for their sweet menu filled with cakes, cookies, fruit tarts, and other treats, Little Bee Bakery is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. Be sure to stop by this wonderful bakery and pick up a batch of their “Take and Bake” cookie doughs for a treat you won’t forget!
Order: Cakes, Chocolate Sea Salt Cookie, Take and Bake Cookie Dough
Hours: Monday: Closed, Tuesday – Saturday: 7:30AM – 6PM, Sunday: 7:30AM – 5PM
Website: www.littlebeebakingsf.com

Custom Cakes by Cake Coquette. Photo: Cake Coquette.
Custom Cakes by Cake Coquette. Photo: Cake Coquette.

Cake Coquette
$$ | 1501 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Opened in 2007 by Chef Gabrielle Feuersinger, Cake Coquette has been one of the premier specialty cake shops in San Francisco if you’re ever on the market for a fantastic custom cake for any occasion. In 2016, Feuersinger was named one of the top 10 Cake Artists by Dessert Professional Magazine, and it’s easy to tell why. Whether you’re looking to get a wedding cake, a unique cake sculpted to look like a hand bag, or a Spiderman themed cake for little Peter’s birthday party, Cake Coquette has got you covered in 7 amazing flavors from salted caramel to classic chocolate.
Order: Sculpted Cakes
Website: www.cakecoquette.com

Where to Shop in Bernal Heights

Succulence. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.
Succulence. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.

$$ | 402 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Home to the infamous “USEXY” sign that’s all over Instagram, Succulence is a neighborhood gem with an extensive inventory ranging from stationary to DIY succulent terrariums. New to the terrarium scene? The friendly staff team at Succulence will help you get started. Learn about the different options available, placement, and proper maintenance of your new terrariums in a fun and easy environment. Stop by Succulence and check out all that they have to offer!
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10AM – 7PM
Website: www.thesucculence.com

Heartfelt. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.
Heartfelt. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.

$$ | 436 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA
For over 30 years, Heartfelt has been supplying the neighborhood with fun socks, conversational center pieces, and small batch products. It’s the perfect place to find unique gifts for any occasion, anyone would appreciate.
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10AM – 8PM
Website: Heartfelt

Small batch items inside The Epicurean Trader. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.
Small batch items inside The Epicurean Trader. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.

The Epicurean Trader
$$$ | 401 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA
If you’re into whiskey, artisanal, and unique hard to find small batch products, The Epicurean Trader is the store for you. Upon entering, you’ll instantly get the impression that its inventory has been thoughtfully curated. From rare spirits, beers, and pantry items, to unique beautiful dinnerware, The Epicurean Trader has you covered.
Hours: Sunday – Wednesday: 10AM – 8PM, Thursday – Saturday: 10AM – 9PM
Website: www.theepicureantrader.com

Good Life Groceries
$$ | 448 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Good Life Groceries is your friendly neighborhood grocery store with fresh high quality produce, an enormous curated wine and beer inventory in addition to a terrific deli counter with a wide range of ready-to-go items.
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 8AM – 9PM
Website: Good Life Groceries

Where to Get Outdoors in Bernal Heights

Swing atop Bernal Heights Park. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.
Swing atop Bernal Heights Park. Photo: Justin Wong, 49miles.com.

Bernal Heights Park
Bernal Heights Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94110
Easily one of the best places in the city to spend a sunny day in San Francisco, Bernal Heights Park is a photogenic destination where you can bring your furry friend. After just a brief hike up Bernal Hill, you will be rewarded with a 360-degree view of San Francisco. Bernal Heights is a vantage point that seems to be able to offer visitors a clear view of the city, even though it may be foggy everywhere else.
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 5AM – 12AM
Website: www.sfrecpark.org

Holly Park
Holly Park Circle, San Francisco, CA 94110
Located just steps away from Cortland Avenue, Holly Park boasts panoramic views of the city. With plenty of open grass areas, tennis courts, basketball courts, a baseball field, and even play structures, this dog friendly park is the perfect destination for all your outdoor recreation activities.
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 6AM – 12AM
Website: www.sfrecpark.org

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