Red Hill Station Has Its “Check, Please! Bay Area” Moment


Red Hill Station is one of Cortlandia’s culinary treasures, and it’s been fun to watch as the rest of San Francisco gradually figures that out.

Bernal neighbors Taylor Pedersen and Amy Reticker create some serious food magic at Red Hill, and last week the wannbe food critics of KQED’s “Check, Please! Bay Area” took Red Hill Station for a televised test drive.

In this episode, our discriminating Check, Please! taste-testers were:

  • Jeff, an epidemiologist
  • Jennifer, a belly dancer
  • Christopher, a deputy district attorney

And of course, we were joined by the glamorous host of the show, Leslie Sbrocco:


Red Hill Station was recommended by Jeff the epidemiologist, and if you want to skip ahead to get to the Bernal part, start watching this video at around the 10:30 mark:

Don’t want to ruin the surprise, but suffice to say… Red Hill Station pretty much blew everyone away. Naturally, we knew that would happen, all along.

IMAGE: Leslie Sbrocco GIF, courtesy of Andy Welfle

New Work by Bernal Artist Charles Bierwirth Now Showing at Pinhole Coffee


News Flash: JoEllen Depakakibo, the proprietor and caffeinated creator of Pinhole Coffee at 231 Cortland, is officially tired of commuting to work from across town. So later this month, she’s moving to Bernal Heights. Pinhole has done much to create a stronger sense of community in western Cortlandia, so the addition of soon-to-be Neighbor JoEllen to our full-time Bernalese ranks will likely be a victory for the forces of better-togetherness.

Consistent with that, soon-to-be Neighbor JoEllen tells us about a new art installation now showing at Pinhole:

We have new artwork up by Bernal resident Charles Bierwirth. He’s been living in Bernal Heights since the late 1980’s, doing commissions in Fine Art paintings and mural work. He’s been painting on canvas tarpaulins since graduate school in the late 1970’s, when he received his Masters Degree in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute. He recently just finished a piece on the San Francisco icons, The Brown Twins.

Charles Bierwirth’s piece “Blau Haus” will be on display until July at Pinhole Coffee.

PHOTO: Charles Bierwirth installing his work at Pinhole Coffee, via Pinhole Coffee

Epicurean Trader Opening This Morning on Cortland



This morning, The Epicurean Trader will open for business at 401 Cortland, on the corner of Bennington, for the very first time. Grand Opening! Woo hoo!

That said, when your Bernalwood editor first heard that the business would be called The Epicurean Trader, I was gravely concerned. Sure, the fetishism of San Francisco food aficionados can be a bit obnoxious at times. But a business dedicated entirely to the buying and selling of epicureans? As if they were human chattel? Well, let’s just say that seemed a bit extreme.

Fortunately, co-proprietor Holly McDell helped clear things up. Rest assured, she says, the Epicurean Trader will not engage in the buying and selling of epicureans. Instead, it will facilitate the the buying and selling of artisanal food products to epicureans. Whew! Bernalwood is very relieved.

Here’s what else Neighbor Holly has to say about The Epicurean Trader:

My husband Mat and I moved to Bernal (on Putnam) a few years ago, after having our first child. We fell in love with the neighborhood and the sense of community.

The store is called The Epicurean Trader. Inside the store you’ll find hand-selected small batch artisan products from across America, chosen for their incredible flavors and fusions, natural ingredients, and beautiful packaging.

As you are probably aware, there are many amazing products out there that struggle to get into large wholesale accounts for a number of reasons (reliance on distributors, lack of capital or brand awareness etc). Our goal is to be a brand ambassador for these smaller brands, sharing their unique stories, and bringing many of them to San Francisco for the first time.


We aim to provide a space for Bernal residents to discover and taste the best artisanal foods from across the country. In addition, we will have a curated selection of wines, craft beers, and small batch distilled spirits. On the wine side we are working with Bernal local Jason Moore of Alluvial Wines, as well as Alex Finberg (former sommelier of Farina, and trusted consultant for some of San Francisco’s top restaurants and markets). They have kindly shared their experience and palates to develop a wine program specifically for the Bernal demographic. We aim to have a selection of amazing wines at every price point, to enjoy both mid week, as well as on special occasions.

By working directly with brands and avoiding distributors wherever possible, we aim to offer these products at affordable prices. We see our product selection as being complementary that of The Good Life and Avedano’s.

We’re also going to have in-store tastings where the artisans and wine makers etc can come and share their stories.

Neighbor Holly says The Epicurean Trader will be open at 11 am today. We say: Welcome!

PHOTOS: Courtesy of The Epicurean Trader

Bank of America Plans to Eliminate Human Bankers from Cortland Branch


Action Alert: Bank of America has announced plans to eliminate human tellers from the bank’s Cortland Branch.

Bernalwood visited the Cortland Branch yesterday to confirm the rumors that have been swirling around the neighborhood for the last few days.

We were told that BofA does indeed plan to turn the Cortland Branch into an Express Banking Center. That means the building is slated to undergo significant remodeling, with human tellers replaced by a zeal of indoor ATM machines. Safe deposit boxes will be eliminated along with the tellers, but the site will be staffed by non-banker humans to assist with account-management issues. The remaining humans will be customer support people, basically.

As currently envisioned, remodeling will begin in April, with the branch set to reopen in July.

The B of A on Cortland has been there for a long time. A really long time; almost 100 years, practically since the time of the ancient Bernal druids. Which is to say, the B of A on Cortland is very much a local institution. During Bernalwood’s visit yesterday, the Cortland branch was bustling; There was a short line to visit the tellers, as a few more customers waited patiently on chairs to talk with a personal banker. While they still can.

Neighbor Darcy Lee from Heartfelt on Cortland was very sad to hear about BofA’s plan for the Cortland Branch, and she is rallying to keep the human bank tellers there. Neighbor Darcy writes:

As you might know, the B of A plans on renovating our branch to make it indoor ATMs.

I just went in the bank; There were 4 senior citizens waiting for service and 3 merchants in line. I could have made a video right then and there why a neighborhood branch is so important. B of A owns the building, and they want to make it an indoor ATM. They want to stay in Bernal, but just change what they provide.

This has a big impact on us as merchants, and that further extends to our customers that use the bank. There are many senior citizens that use this as a resource in Bernal.

All of us as merchants need money — actual coins and bills — sometimes multiple times in one day. We also make large cash deposits (or, at least hopefully large). From my observation over the years, this bank takes the time to explain to their elderly population often not English speakers what is going on with their accounts and statement charges.

B of A has made this announcement when their process is pretty far along, but I want to fight it.

Stay tuned for more details, but if you’d like to find out more, check in with Neighbor Darcy at Heartfelt.

UPDATE: In the comments, Neighbor Darcy adds:

HI all, Darcy here… thanks for your input- it is helpful to hear what you have to say. Please note that many folks that bank there do not read Bernalwood. There have always been safety issues with this branch, a few botched robberies over the years thus the bullet proof glass, a senior citizen mugged at the ATM. A door that opens during business hours without having to use your ATM card seems important to me, literally and symbolically. I do not feel it is an issue of “yeeesh old folks can learn to use a technology that has been around a long time”. For me it is an issue of letting an institution know that their decision made many miles from 94110 is affecting us. If you have ideas for the cause email me at and if you have an account you will close because of this change please also let me know.

PHOTO: “Crowd of people standing outside the Bernal Heights branch of the Bank of America, on Cortland Avenue, after a bank robbery” December 24, 1936, via SFPL Image Library

Valentine’s Day Pro Tip: Floral Popup at Pinhole Coffee Today and Tomorrow


Here’s a special way to get your Valentine on. Natasha Lisitsa is a ridiculously glamorous Bernal Heights floral designer, and just in time for the arrival of Cupid, she’s doing a pop-up floral boutique today and tomorrow, February 13 and 14, at the fabulous Pinhole Coffee on Cortland.

Natasha says:

My name is Natasha Lisitsa, and I own a floral design studio in Bernal Heights at 1501 Cortland. We don’t have a storefront since we focus on special events and floral art installations, so you probably never seen us.

This weekend I am doing a Valentines Day popup shop at Pinhole Coffee. It will be open from 12-6pm on Friday, and from 9-6pm on Saturday. We will have fresh floral bouquets in variety of colors and prices.


PHOTO: via Waterlily Pond on Facebook

Fabulous 331 Cortland Getting an Indoor Seating Upgrade

331 Cortland

Are you sitting down right now? Because as you read this, the fabulous food marketplace at 331 Cortland is getting a major upgrade, in the form of an indoor seating area. It’s also getting a new mission statement. 331 Cortland owner Debra Resnik brings the tell:

What: 331 Cortland Marketplace remodel to result in 10 seats at the formerly seatless kiosk shop.
When: Shops close for remodel Feb. 1-5 and reopen Feb. 6 with new daily opening hour of 8 a.m.
Who: Anda Piroshki, Paulie’s Pickling, and Mae Krua food kiosks
Why: To give customers exactly what they’ve asked for.

Visitors to the “three shops in one” at 331 Cortland in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood pretty much all say the same thing: “This place is amazing!” They also ask the same question: “Is there anywhere to sit?” The shop is pleased to announce that the answer is about to change to “Yes.”

In a total redefinition of purpose, the storefront is set to transform itself from small-business incubator into microcafé. Although the incubator model has been spectacularly successful, launching Ichi Sushi and Bernal Cutlery into their own storefronts (and other businesses into wholesale and retail,) property owner and in-house theoretician Debra Resnik has worked hard to give customers what they want: seating. Resnik and 331 Cortland residents Anda Piroshki, Paulie’s Pickling, and Mae Krua Thai food are excited about the forthcoming seating and remodel: Kiosk chefs Anna Tvelova, Liz Ashby, and Anucha Kongthavorn hint at expanded menus in the near future, thanks to the improved space. Paulie’s will continue to carry favorite retail items from 331 alum and friends in the new configuration as well — including Suite Foods waffles.

Locals Paul Ashby of Paulie’s Pickling and recent Russian transplant and Anda Piroshki cook Roman Ugrimov will do the construction, while a bittersweet note comes from the decision of waffle shop Suite Foods to change focus to wholesale and catering work. Their presence in the shop will be missed. However, Deb and the team look forward to giving customers from Bernal and beyond exactly what they want: seats!

PHOTO: 331 Cortland time capsule, circa 2011; by Telstar Logistics

Pinhole Coffee Connects With Bernal’s Filipino Community


A few weeks ago, Bernalwood’s search robots brought an interesting headline to our attention: “Enterprising Filipina opens hip cafe in hot San Francisco neighborhood.” The accompanying article tells a very cool story about JoEllen Depakakibo, the fashionably caffeinated Filipina entrepreneur who opened Pinhole Coffee on Cortland Avenue., a news site for Filipinos, describes how Miss JoEllen from Pinole has connected with the Filipino community in Bernal Heights:

“[Bernal Heights] was the type of neighborhood I was looking for, a mix of the old and modern, giving me the feel of the 1950s,” Depakakibo related.

“Here, you see amazing people walking and talking to each other,” she added. […] Bernal Heights has had its share of woes because of the rapid gentrification occuring in San Francisco. Before the tech surge, it was a more diverse mix of working class residents, artists and activists. Buck Bagot one of the founders of the Occupy Bernal Movement, was quoted in a piece in Bernalwood blog, saying, “When I moved here, every house on my block had a different ethnicity. There were Latinos, Blacks, American Indians, Samoans and Filipinos. … Now they’re all gone.”

Members of the Occupy Bernal movement are currently fighting to save homes from foreclosures and maintain diversity in the neighborhood. When Depakakibo chose Bernal Heights for her venture, she was not yet aware of the history of Filipinos in the neighborhood.

The late Filipino American Bill Sorro, a longtime resident and beloved civil rights and housing activist, was one of the leaders of the movement in the 1970s that struggled for nine years to prevent the eviction of low-income senior citizens, including Filipinos, from the International Hotel in San Francisco’s Chinatown. (The International Hotel Manilatown Center now stands on the site, a testament to the early organizing for affordable housing rights in the city.)

The number of Filipinos in Bernal Heights spiked starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s because of the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which paved the way for immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East to become permanent residents in the U.S.

Gloria Carvajal, one of the beneficiaries of the law, has lived in the neighborhood since she arrived in the US in 1968 and worked for Pacific Bell Telephone Company (now AT&T) for almost 30 years until her early retirement in 1996. She was active in Saint Kevin Church’s close-knit Fil-Am Association, which no longer exists, but she continues to keep in touch and care for housebound members of the group. […]

One afternoon, Carvajal went to Pinhole to have a cup of java, and as soon as Depakakibo saw her, she bowed, took Carvajal’s hand, and put it against her forehead, a sign of respect for elders among Filipinos. In turn, Carvajal gave her a blessing and welcomed her to the neighborhood, immediately proceeding to tell the young Pinay about Filipinos living and working in Bernal Heights. While decades separated their ages, respect for an age-old tradition and love for coffee and community bonded them instantly.

Read the whole thing on, here.

PHOTO: JoEllen Depakakibo (right) gives longtime Bernal Heights resident Gloria Carvajal a traditional Filipino greeting at Pinhile Coffee. Photo my Mila De Guzman for