Bernal Heights Dominates List of Best No-Fuss Places to Eat

To live in Bernal Heights is to know that we take the Art of Living rather seriously here. We appreciate great food and the finer things in life, but we generally prefer it served without additional helpings of fuss or pretension. Our neighborhood is sometimes written off by snooty food critics as a result, but Bernal’s culinary charms are not lost on the more earthy ones.

Case in point: last week The Bold Italic published a story entitled “Screw the Foodies,” which showcased some of the more beguiling eateries around the City where one can get a good meal “without all the fancy pants frenzy.”

Amid an explosion of F-bombs and orifice-inspired indignation, writer Sara Faith Alterman explains:

I love to eat, and to eat adventurously, but I get tired of the pomp and culinary circumstance that often seasons the San Francisco dining experience. Fuck. I get tired of the phrase “dining experience.” I can’t tell if it’s because I’m annoyed by complicated menus, or because of the surgical scrutiny to which people subject them. I once overheard five 20-somethings grill a server endlessly about the levels of sulfides in the organic Grenache. They ordered a single glass to split among them, and ended up sending it back because one dude didn’t like the way it brought out the ashiness of the cheese that topped his gluten-free flatbread.

I resisted the urge to stab each of these assholes in the clavicle with my salad fork. Barely.

But the whole situation reminded me just how much I relish an easy meal. Dining off the eaten path at a low-fuss restaurant is, for me, far more satisfying than scrambling for a table at Gastropub Du Jour or scratching my head at the complicated components in trendily deconstructed cuisine. Sure, that stuff’s fun sometimes, but give me one of these “screw the foodies” spots anytime.

That’s the set-up, but here’s the interesting thing: Of the six restaurants on Sara Faith Alterman’s list, four are in the Dominion of Bernalwood:

  1. Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack (“The hand-drawn menu… is simple and satisfying. It changes every season but always includes that good ole go-to trio of crisp Caesar salad, buttery garlic bread, and spaghetti and meatballs with homemade marinara.”)
  2. The Old Clam House (“I cried, because the meal made me nostalgic for the seafood suppers my mom cooks after family days at the beach. And because I’d had two glasses of wine and a French lemonade cocktail.”)
  3. Silver Crest Donut Shop (“You will never, ever be served precious nonsense that’s glazed with sustainable bacon-flavored angel tears. And bless them for it. The donuts here are gigantic and sugary and perfect for late nights or early mornings.”)
  4. Paulie’s Pickles (“The brisket and liver sandwich at Paulie’s Pickling is so goddamned fantastic that we’re pretty much in an abusive relationship.”)

Playing host to four of San Francisco’s six finest no-fuss eateries is a rather impressive accomplishment. Or, as Sara Faith Alterman might say, “Holy F*ck!” So eat up, Bernal Heights, and remember always that we are living the dream.

PHOTOS: From top, Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, Silvercrest Diner, Old Clam House, and Paulie’s Pickles, by The Bold Italic

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13 thoughts on “Bernal Heights Dominates List of Best No-Fuss Places to Eat

  1. Only one of those is actually in Bernal Heights, though.

    Also, this may be the first time I have ever heard of Silvercrest being called a good place to eat. I mean, the place is AWESOME, but the food is terrible and it is ridiculously expensive.

    Also, Old Clam House still hasn’t recovered from the serious decline in quality with the change in ownership last year, sadly.

    Paulie’s Pickling and La Lengua’s own Emmy’s are still awesome, though.

    • Nope, all four are firmly within the boundaries of the Dominion of Bernalwood.

      As for Ye Olde Clam House… I didn’t eat at the old one much, but I’ve definitely become a fan of the new. Very satisfying, full bar, and (per above) no fuss.

      • Is this more annexation? Aren’t Silver Crest and Old Clam House firmly inside Butchertown? Some would even consider it Bayview, but I’ve never heard Bayshore called Bernal Heights before.

      • The Dominion of Bernalwood has always extended to Bayshore on our eastern frontier, so we can lay claim to any establishment between the Hairball and the Spaghetti Bowl on Bayshore, whenever it suits us.

  2. I remember with great fondness the old neon sign on Silvercrest: A giant flashing donut alternating with a martini glass–MARTINI !!! DONUT !!! MARTINI !!! DONUT !!! It was exactly what you wanted at 2:00 a.m., driving home from a club.

  3. My level of interest in actually going inside The Old Clam House has risen quite a bit since they remodeled the exterior. I didn’t know anyone who actually ever ate there, and I’ve lived here over 25 years. It was the implicit suggestion that all they served were old clams that kind of turned me off. Who knows, maybe it’s time to give it a try.

    • I used to eat there once a month or so. Absolutely loved it.

      As for the new one, I don’t have any issue with the exterior refurbishing, it looks quite nice. Unfortunately the stripped most of the soul out of the interior, however. But even that’s not a deal breaker. The real problem is that the quality of the food and the service took a major hit when they changed hands (and staff). Used to be that the Old Clam House had the best cioppino in the city, for instance. Nowadays? Not so much.
      (Deth Veggie’s Pro-Tip for Best Cioppino now? Tadich Grill on California St.)

      • Here, I do not disagree. I can’t speak to Cioppino Then vs. Now, but overall the quality of food at the new Clam House is impressive. The mussles are amazing, for example.

  4. Paulies is really excellent. I used to complain how hard it was to get a decent sandwich in San Francisco, until I moved to Bernal and found Paulies. Brisket-tuna-brisket-tuna is the groove I have gotten into. I like the no bullshit attitude behind the counter too. Here is your sandwich. No fake smiles, no hipster posing.

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