Coming Soon: A New Golden Age for Beer in Bernal Heights


Though you’d hardly know it from walking down the street right now, Bernal Heights is poised to enter a new Golden Age of high-quality beer. That’s right: craft beer, in many varieties, and great abundance… all coming to Bernal, and very soon.

Bernal neighbor Lessley Anderson of Baja Cortlandia is an ace reporter and ardent beer lover, and she files this exclusive report:

Once upon a time, Bernal had it’s own local beer at 3314 Army/Cesar Chavez, called North Star Brewing Company. (You can even see it in this photo.) But that was pre-prohibition, when San Francisco had almost 100 small breweries, and almost every neighborhood had at least one place pumping out fresh beer for the locals.

Joyfully, it appears we’re heading back to those days. According to SF Brewer’s Guild stats, the number of breweries is set to double in San Francisco next year, and cool beer bars are opening up faster than strip-mall cupcake concept stores in 2003. Beer is so hot right now, and the good news for Bernal beer lovers is that one of the hottest hotspots in this hot trendy trend, is… you guessed it, glamorous Bernal Heights.

In the coming months, three new and ambitious beer-focused establishments will open on Bernal’s stretch of Mission Street. Plus, word on the street is that still more beer projects are in development. Taken together, Bernal Heights is poised to blow up into a full-on craft beer destination. But you have questions, and I’ve tracked down lots of answers, so here are the details on what coming:

Name: Bel
Where: 3215 Mission (in the former Locavore space)
When: Plans to open by end of this month
What: This will be Belgian beer bar and bistro from Jennifer Garris and Richard Rosen, of Pi Bar fame, with 12 tap handles. Four of those taps will be dedicated to imported Belgian ales. The others will rotate, including local versions of Belgian-style styles. Bel will also be a full-on restaurant, serving Belgian dishes like moules frites (YES!) , steak frites, and fish waterzooi (which is a stew with an intriguing name).
Fancy/Kid-Friendly: More schwank than Pi Bar, but not fancy. And yes, bring the kids.
Fun Fact: The bar has purchased a replica of Manneken Pis, that famous statue of the little boy peeing into the fountain in Brussels. They’ve also commissioned a seamstress from the SF Opera to make him special outfits for important days, such as Pride, or Elvis’ birthday.


Name: Old Bus Tavern
Where: 3193 Mission (in the former El Patio space)
When: Slated to open by early June
What: As Bernalwood previously reported, this will be a brewpub and chili-focused restaurant with a separate-but-related VW party bus project. That’s a lot to take-in… so here’s the breakdown: First, these guys will make their own beer (on a small, 3.5 bbl system, for all you beer-geeks out there). They will produce a range of styles, but their flagship beer will be a lemon-basil Saison. They’ll also serve a full menu of “California elevated bar food” that will highlight different chilies, and they’ll have cocktails. Lastly, as mentioned, they’re crowdfunding the purchase and transformation of a vintage Volkswagen bus into a beer/food truck/party mobile.
Fancy/Kid-Friendly: Won’t be fancy, but may be a little hipstery. And yes, kid-tolerant.
Fun Fact: Inspiration for the menu came from an epic roadtrip the partners took through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, where they sampled regional chilis.


Name: Old Devil Moon
Where: 3472 Mission (in the current La Terrazza space)
When: Hopes to open this fall
What: After La Terrazzo passes the torch, Old Devil Moon will be a bar, first, and foremost. Yet it will also have a limited menu on the side. (A great burger, and some Southern food they say.) They’re not making their own beer, but rather serving other people’s, with 20 rotating taps and a cask ale system, plus cocktails and a deep-dive into whiskeys. Founder Chris Cohen says he wants this place to rival the “best beer bars in the city.” He certainly knows what he’s talking about; Cohen founded the San Francisco Homewbrewers Guild and literally wrote the book on how to become a certified cicerone (which is like being a sommelier for beer). He wants it to be a cozy neighborhood spot with lots of wood and warm colors. They will also serve brunch.
Fancy/Kid-Friendly: Not fancy, and technically, yes, kids allowed. But this will really be more of a bar, FWIW.
Fun Fact: The name comes from an old jazz standard, originally from the musical Finian’s Rainbow. Cohen liked the “dark-yet-comfortable” vibe it conjured up.

BONUS! More more more! Fresh from the rumor mill!! 

Name: Hop Oast
Where: 2887 Bryant (at Cesar Chavez, in the former D&J Furniture store)
What: The ABC license says it’s going to be a “small beer manufacturer” and “Pub and Brewery.” And right now, the windows are covered up with recycled bags of beer-making malt. Lisa Marie Delgadillo, owner of the Lucky Horseshoe Tavern on Cortland, is one of the masterminds behind the project, but she says it’s too premature to discuss: “It would be like someone taking a home pregnancy test, then sending out baby shower invitations for a date nine months out,” she explains.

Beer and Chili: Old Bus Tavern, Opening in June, Also Raising Funds for a Fun Bonus Project

OBT Window of Wisdom

The emergence of our very own NanoTokyo District is an exciting development in Bernal’s culinary landscape, but that’s not the only food news to share from our stretch of Mission Street. A few hundred yards north of NanoTokyo, near the intersection with Valencia, the Old Bus Tavern is gearing up to open soon at 3193 Mission, in the former El Patio space:


Neighbor Bennett (Ben) Buchanan lives on Precita Avenue, and he’s one of the co-founders of the Old Bus Tavern. He says the focus will be on craft beer and haute chili, and he passes this along this preview:

Slated to open in Bernal Heights in early June, Old Bus Tavern is a destination for upscale pub fare, house-brewed beer, and comfortable craft cocktails. Partners Ben Buchanan, Jimmy Simpson, John Zirinsky, and Tim Symes are collaborating to create a neighborhood gathering place where guests can put away a pint of Lemon Basil Saison, enjoy cocktails with a Southwestern spirit, and dig into next-level bar food with a contemporary culinary sensibility.

The food and beverage menu is a team effort: Buchanan and Zirinsky are co-brewmasters (they’ve been home brewing together for nearly a decade), and Simpson and Symes oversee all food and beverage operations. Bar consultant Christina Cabrera (Novela, 15 Romolo, Range, Michael Mina) is on board to create the cocktail program, which will reflect the tavern’s forward-thinking approach.

Designed with the support of architect Thomas Pippin of Lifebox Studios (ICHI), and Sarah Greenwood Design (who is Zirinsky’s mom), Old Bus Tavern’s aesthetic embodies the feel of a casual restaurant, brewery, and bar that offers unique drinks and creative, craveable takes on pub food. The brewery equipment will be on full display so patrons can watch the process, and a variety of dedicated dining and drinking areas encourage patrons to settle into whichever of the Tavern’s 47 seats best suits them.

While the primary funding for the restaurant build-out is all lined-up, the Old Bus Tavern crew also has a crowdfunding campaign underway to raise some extra money to convert an old VW bus into a mobile food truck. The video they created for the effort also provides a nice introduction to what the Old Bus Tavern will be all about:

If you’d like, you can contribute to the effort — and learn more about the proposal — at the crowdfunding site.

Of course, there’s one detail that cannot pass without mention.  If you watch the Old Bus Tavern video above, you may notice something odd. Something very curious. Something very bizarre. At the beginning of the video, it says:

“Welcome to the future home of Old Bus Tavern, Mission-Bernal’s new brew pub.”

Hmmmm.  Confusing. And then, it happens again, just 15 seconds later:

“We want to bring back that tradition of fresh, local beer to the residents of Mission-Bernal”

Those latter words are spoken by none other than Neighbor Bennet of Precitaville, which is particularly baffling because Neighbor Bennet is a longtime Citizen of Bernalwood. You will notice that in the video, Neighbor Bennet’s lips move, and sounds emerge from his throat, and he says:


Mission-Bernal? Mission-Bernal!? Where is that? What is that? Does that even exist? And if it must be a hybrid, shouldn’t it be Bernal-Mission?

Your Bernalwood editor brought this matter up with Neighbor Bennet of Precitaville, and he assured us that it was just a big misunderstanding. Neighbor Bennet said something about establishing a brand and **cough cough** a national marketing plan and… to be honest, I couldn’t even pay attention to what he was saying after a while because I was to busy feeling queasy and hyperventilating. I mean… Mission-Bernal?  What?

Suffice to say, after some constructive dialog, Neighbor Bennet now understands with perfect clarity that the Old Bus Tavern will be opening soon in a place called Bernal Heights, and that the Citizens of Bernal Heights are very excited to welcome their new establishment to our lands. We’ve received tacit assurances that geo-nomenclature matters will be handled with greater sensitivity in the future.

But just in case there’s any lingering ambiguity, Bernalwood also sent the Old Bus Tavern team this helpful best-practices guide:


PHOTOS: Courtesy of Old Bus Tavern

Japanese Curry House and Japanese-Style Oyster Bar Coming Soon to Mission Street


All of a sudden, a single block of Mission Street in Bernal Heights is poised become a Japanese food hotspot. Indeed, in a few months, Bernal Heights will be home to such a dense cluster of Japanese cuisine that the La Lengua Tourism Promotion Bureau should begin calling it Nano Tokyo.

We’re talking about the area of Mission near 29th Street. As we all know, this is where you’ll find Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar, the hyperacclaimed sushi bar and izakaya created by Bernal neighbors Tim and Erin Archuleta. And then, of course, Coco Ramen recently opened up across the street, right next door to the unfortunately named (but actually quite solid) Crazy Sushi. So: Sushi, sushi, izakaya, and ramen.

Now Bernalwood has learned that even more Japanese cuisine is coming to this area:


Yes, construction is now underway inside the former location of the much-lamented Eagle Donuts. Bernalwood has learned that the space will soon become the Fumi Curry House, a restaurant that will specialize in Japanese-style curry. What’s Japanese-style curry? Well, it’s hearty and delicious — if somewhat esoteric on these shores. In Japan, people love it as a comfort food (sort of like the way Americans feel about mac and cheese). Here’s a photo of some Japanese curry your Bernalwood editor ate in Japan a few years ago:


Here’s how SeriousEats describes Japanese curry:

People might be surprised to find curry in Japanese restaurants, but the fact is karē raisu (カレーライス), or Japanese curry rice, is so ubiquitous in Japanese home-cooking that it might well be considered one of the country’s national dishes.

Curry was introduced to Japan via the British in the second half of the nineteenth century, when Meiji-era Japan opened its doors to foreigners and their goods. As a result, Japanese curry inherits most of its characteristics from Anglo curry—which means that the Japanese used and continue to use curry powder. Curry powder, a ready-made mix of spices, began to be standardized and mass-produced in Britain at the height of Queen Victoria’s colonial stronghold of India. Curry powders are not only standardized masalas—they are also adapted to Western palates, and often result in curry dishes that are slightly sweet.

In Japan, British curry developed into karē raisu, a curried, thick stew of potatoes, carrots, onions, and your meat of choice, served over a bed of short-grain, white rice, and topped with pickles.

If you’ve never had Japanese curry, you’ll be able to try it soon enough. The build-out for Fumi Curry House is already underway inside the former Eagle Donuts, and construction should be complete in about a month. Then its just a question of how long it takes to sort out all the permits.

Meanwhile, just up the street, the Team Ichi is gearing up to open their new Japanese-style oyster bar inside Ichi Sushi’s cozy original space just down the road at 3369 Mission, on the corner of Godeus. So what is a Japanese-style oyster bar?

Frankly, we have no idea! Kaki is the Japanese word for oyster; the -ya at the end means “shop.” So kakiya means “oyster shop,” which isn’t very helpful because  we already knew it was an oyster shop. Neighbor Tim and Neighbor Erin are being coy about their diabolical plans, but we’re told opening day is approaching. This weekend, however, the @ICHIKakiya Twitter account came to life for the very first time, whereupon we were treated to this photo of Chef Tim doing something unseemly with a large, red machine:

Now, it must be noted that none of the restaurants are Japanese-owned. (The owners of Fumi Curry House are Chinese.) Yet when you pull it all together, and look at what’s there now, and what’s coming soon, there is definitely a serious Japanese food cluster happening. It’s not big enough to be called a Little Tokyo. But it sure is starting to taste a little like Shibuya. (All that’s missing is a yakitori joint.)

So let us now dub this zone Nano Tokyo. Here is your guide map:

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Passing the Torch: La Terraza to Become Craft Beer Bar and Restaurant


There’s been lots of transformation on Mission Street in Bernal Heights, along the northern reaches of the La Lengua Autonomous Zone.

Anchoring the party, El Rio has (blessedly) been there since more or less forever, of course. More recently, the arrival of Blue Plate, Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, Baby Blues BBQ, Iron and Gold,  The Royal Cuckoo, Virgil’s, ICHI Sushi+Ni Bar, the Pizza Hacker, and a few other 21st century foodie/drinkie institutions have steadily transformed the northern half of Bernal’s stretch of Mission into a destination for folks from all over our City.

Yet so far, this transformation has not extended south beyond 30th Street and our Taoist Safeway. By the time you reach the (Bernalistically symbolic) intersection of Cortland and Mission, for example, you’ll notice that the urban fabric today remains pretty much as it has been since the 1980s. Pretty much.

Now, however, comes news that evolution is coming to our southern part of Mission Street. InsideScoop broke the story yesterday, revealing that at 3472 Mission Street, a new bar/restaurant called Old Devil Moon will soon replace La Terraza.

Google recently captured La Terraza for posterity, in first-rate form, looking awesome and adrift in time:


InsideScoop sez:

Old Devil Moon is in the works at 3472 Mission Street, the location probably best known as La Terraza, which has been owned and operated by brothers Pedro and Isidro Navarette for the last 20 years. La Terraza will remain open for about three to four more months, until the liquor license transfers.

Old Devil Moon will be a craft beer bar, albeit one with a full liquor license and menu of Southern food. The folks behind it are a trio of beer nerds: Chris Cohen (founder-president of the SF Homebrewers Guild), Andrew Kelley and Will Marshall.

That’s Chris, Andrew, and Will in the photo up top (though not necessarily in that order).

At first blush, this probably looks like yet another in a contemporary series of awkward local tales about Old-Timers vs. New People. Gentrification! Hipsters! “Erosion of our San Francisco culture!”

Alas,  this isn’t really one of those kinds of stories. Instead, it’s is a tale of neighborly evolution and passing-of-the-torch.  Old Devil Moon’s Chris Cohen told Bernalwood how the change of ownership went down:

Pedro was my next door neighbor on Tiffany Ave for 5+ years, and I knew he owned la Terraza from talking over the fence over the years.

One day when we were both taking the trash out at the same time I asked him if he knew any bar owners who may want to sell (I’d been looking for a space for months). He said, “I’ve actually been thinking about retiring for a couple years, I’d love to sell you my place.” It took another few months to get the deal done and we finally just posted the ABC notice of license transfer in their window today. Everyone did well and is happy with the results of the deal.

It’s essentially similar to what happened with Emmy’s taking over El Zocalo, and the Nap’s/Virgil’s story. Nap was ready to quit the business, and his bar wasn’t doing as well as it used to because the neighborhood had changed around the business. The process and reason for the changes at our La Terraza location are similar.

Pedro and his brother Isidro have owned La Terraza for about 20 years and are ready to retire. They were happy to sell to a neighbor.

PHOTO: Team Old Devil Moon, via Old Devil Moon

Hard Hat Chic: Groundbreaking Begins New St. Luke’s Hospital Construction Effort




There was a fashionable groundbreaking ceremony last Friday to mark the (long-debated) start of construction of the new California Pacific Medical Center facility on the grounds of  St. Luke’s Hospital at Cesar Chavez near Valencia — Bernal’s home-team hospital.

The San Francisco Appeal covered the event:

The new state-of-the-art hospital will be constructed adjacent to the old hospital on San Jose Avenue just south of Cesar Chavez Street, CPMC spokesman Dean Frye said.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee attended [Friday’s] groundbreaking ceremony and dug out a symbolic shovel full of dirt. He said via Twitter that the project will provide a “new seismically safe hospital and year-round jobs for #SF residents.”

CPMC chief executive officer Warren Browner joined the mayor and members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to celebrate construction of the new St. Luke’s campus, which will begin in October, Frye said.

The new hospital comes after years of negotiations, including a 2012 development agreement that was shelved by members of the city’s Board of Supervisors, in part because of concerns over an escape clause that could have let CPMC close St. Luke’s hospital if its operating margin stayed negative for two straight years.

The new deal hashed out in 2013 omitted the escape clause, required that at least 30 percent of construction jobs go to San Francisco residents, and included higher contributions by the hospital group to the city for charity care.

The new St. Luke’s facility is scheduled to open in 2019, at which point the existing hospital building will be demolished. No major disruption in hospital services is anticipated along the way.

History buffs will note that St. Luke’s was also the site of the original Jose Cornelio Bernal homestead (which sat on the north side of present-day Duncan),  so it’s good to see a new chapter beginning, at last, on this hallowed patch of Bernal Heights ground.

IMAGES: Top: Mayor Ed Lee at St. Luke’s groundbreaking, via @mayoredlee. Rendering of new St. Luke’s Hospital, via CPMC. Jose Bernal house map via Burrito Justice.

Rumor Report: Gourmet Food Store Coming to Former Red Hill Books Space


A nosy curious Bernal neighbor heard some innnnnnteresting things about what’s planned for the former (and much-lamented) Red Hill/Badger Books space on Cortland at Bennington:

I caught Matt locking up the old Red Hill Books and asked if I could be nosy and ask what he’s planning…

He was sweet, said it’s not a secret. The corner of Cortland and Bennington will become The Epicurean Trader — gourmet and local packaged goods. He’s hoping that locals will tell them what’s missing from the other nearby shops so he can keep us all stocked in fav products (not compete with Good Life or Avedanos). They also plan to invite local purveyors to present and so on and such  I think he also mentioned selling wine and beer too, but not positive.

Hmmmmmm. Bernalwood reached out to the owner of the building for comment, but we have not yet received a response.

Treat this as a rumor for now, although in the last few days several other Cortland merchants and curious neighbors have also told Bernalwood more-or-less the same thing about the plan for this storefront. Stay tuned…

PHOTO: via Google Maps

Call Me a YIMFY: New 160-Unit Housing Development Proposed for Full Block of Cesar Chavez at South Van Ness


NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect additional detail about the properties involved (and not involved) in the Lennar housing proposal.

At a time of remarkable economic prosperity and intense housing scarcity, there comes a moment when even the most ardent urbanist must confront their own deepest and most self-interested feelings about change, development, and the clash of old vs. new.

For your Bernalwood editor, that moment would seem to be just about now.

News has reached us that the gigantically impersonal Lennar Corporation has announced plans to develop an most of entire block of Cesar Chavez Boulevard, between South Van Ness, Shotwell, and 26th Street. Under the plan, the site will become the location for 160 units of new housing in a very large new residential development.

This block, which was once home to the former Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile dealership, is now occupied McMillan Electric, a few smog inspection shop, a private garage,  a rather glamorous Auto Zone, and John’s ridiculously charming British car repair businesses (though not all of these would be demolished; see update below):

John's Jaguar

Closer to home, this vast new housing complex will stand right between me and the beloved view of downtown San Francisco that Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter now enjoys from her bedroom window.

Here’s our current perspective on the proposed development site, as seen from my home:


SocketSite broke the news late last week:

Lennar Urban has filed a proposal to raze the McMillan Electric building at 1515 South Van Ness Avenue, between 26th and Cesar Chavez, with plans to construct a 160-unit apartment building on the Inner Mission site which stretches to Shotwell.

As proposed, the six-story development would rise to a height of 65-feet along South Van Ness, stepping down along 26th Street to five stories and a height of 55-feet along Shotwell.  And twelve (12) percent of the 160 units would be designated as below market rate.

Aside from a proposed 1,740 square foot commercial space on the corner of South Van Ness and 26th Street, the rest of the development’s ground floor would consist of either apartments or programming for the project, including a leasing office, an amenities room for the residents and a private 7,803 square-foot courtyard.

An underground garage would provide parking for 90 cars and the average size of an apartment as designed is around 890 square feet.

Well, if this is the moment when my values and interests are tested, then sign me up me a YIMFY‚ as in Yes In My Front Yard.

I hope the new building doesn’t gobble up all of our view. But if it does, well… so it goes. That view wasn’t mine in the first place, we desperately need more housing supply, and this is an ideal location for it.

There are no proposed designs yet, but you can read the Preliminary Project Assessment (PPA) on file with with the Planning Department right here to get the details of the proposal.

Will there be quibbles? Things to dislike? Details to revise and improve? Of course. But overall, my personal sentiment is… BUILD IT!!

Neighbor Rachel wrote to Bernalwood about this proposal, and she has more specific concerns:

I’m not opposed in principle to development and this lot is pretty disgusting right now. I just think that developers who are proposing a project of this size with huge profit potential, which will take up scarce parking spaces, block views (or the sky in my case), cause noise and disruption for years, spew toxic chemicals into the atmosphere (maybe), and otherwise tax the neighborhood resources and patience, need to include lots of give-backs in their plans that will help the neighborhood.

These give-backs must go beyond the bare minimum. The commercial space should serve the hood by providing needed retail outlets and space for local businesses. The street-scaping should beautify the whole area, not just the sidewalks adjacent to the building. The set-backs should be appropriate for the neighborhood. A good solution for parking for all of the new residents should be found that doesn’t cause more strain on the existing neighbors. And more. If we just let the project go ahead without making any noise, then the developers will give no more than they are required to give by law, if that. They are counting on the neighborhood remaining ignorant and apathetic.

No doubt, there will be much to discuss about this in the weeks and months ahead. Still, until further notice, you may count me in the YIMFY camp.

UPDATE AND CLARIFICATION: It seems that the proposed development may not occupy the entire block after all. Bernalwood received this note from Dan Simpson, the manager at John’s British Car Specialist:

I read your blog post about the proposed apartment complex to be constructed at the McMillan Electric building. I hope you will be happy to hear, as it stands, the John’s British Car Specialist (formerly John’s Jaguar Service) building shall remain at the face of Cesar Chavez and Shotwell St. The planned development would knock down the 3 units behind our building. These units have already been sold to the city, our building remains with the original owner. So we hope to stay here as long as we can!

To further clarify: The AutoZone parcel is not part of the proposed development, nor is the building that contains John’s British Car Specialist. This latter detail is confusing, because while the big building that contains John’s looks continuous, it is actually two structurally separate buildings united by a common roof. So while John’s building would stay, the garages north of it would become part of the Lennar development.

And lo, hidden in plain sight at the very end of the PPA document, Dan steered us toward this diagram of the proposed building configuration (shown in blue outline). The proposed courtyard would sit in the southeast corner of the site, along Shotwell right behind John’s British Car Specialist:


Still unclear, however, is the question of whether the City plans to do a separate bel0w-market-rate development on the site of the garage spaces behind John’s British Car, or if that land is somehow tied up with the Lennar proposal.

IMAGES: Top, Google Earth Pro. Below, view from the bedroom, by Telstar Logistics