Bernal Adjacent

We live in the part of Noe Valley that is “Bernal adjacent” as a recent Bernal Heights blogger put it. We even share a zip code with Bernal Heights.

Bernal used to seem completely off the beaten path to me. It felt like the last SF neighborhood before Daly City. But these days it’s the center of my City life. It’s where one of my best friends and her husband bought a place, and they recently had a baby so that’s a draw. It’s also one of the most dog-friendly neighborhoods in a pretty dog-friendly city. And it’s also a great walking neighborhood with laced with my beloved SF’s stairways and full of breath-taking views of the City.

bernalview2012(Pretty sure Mr. WholeHog took this incredible pic)

The neighborhood is anchored by Bernal Hill, a great off-leash area for dogs that offers panoramic views of the City. (We were up on Bernal Hill just last night to watch the moon rise.)

Getting to Bernal Hill is part of the fun. I prefer to link together some of the many stairways that lead up the hill (there’s also one set of slides for the way down). Some of the streets that back up to Bernal Hill have little trails that lead up there, too.

Another reason to walk around Bernal? Some of the homes were once earthquake shacks from 1906. The streets tend to be narrow, which is fine for walking, but a bit of a pain if you’re driving.


Most SF neighborhoods are lucky to have just one good place for dogs, but Bernal has a few options. On the north slope, there’s Precita Park, which is flat and grassy. Dogs are supposed to be leashed at Precita, but there’s usually a few dogs running around off-leash.

Holly Park, on the south side of the Hill, seems to be the local’s dog park. After work on weeknights, neighbors and their dogs congregate below the children’s playground. When the ball field is free, it’s often used as an unofficial dog park (“He likes third base,” one dog owner told us about his dog). When there’s a game, there are usually dogs run up and down the grassy slopes and through the trees.


Holly Park is one of our dog’s very favorite spots to run around, and it’s one of our favorites, too, since it’s close to our friends’ house, and it’s just a block to Holy Water, a dog-friendly bar on Cortland Street, the main commercial stretch of Bernal Heights. Holy Water is darker than I’d ideally like my neighborhood watering hole to be, but it has a good beer selection (including a rotating sour beer on tap!), and it feels like a treat to get to have a drink with the dog.

In the morning, I’m more apt to leash the dog in front of Pinhole Coffee, one of the only legit coffee shops in the area. Run by a longtime Blue Bottle alum, Pinhole brews coffee from many good local roasters, including Blue Bottle, Linea and Verve. It’s a much needed addition to the area.

pinhole-facebookimage from Pinhole’s Facebook page

And if we need something other than coffee or beer, we can usually find it on Cortland. There’s Avedano’s, a woman-owned butcher shop that sources good quality meat (read: not-factory-farmed), or The Good Life, a conventional (but independent) grocery store. There’s a cramped little pet store and a small library. There’s The New Wheel, a shop focused on electric bikes, which was opened by a friend of ours from the farmers market and her husband.

Bernal can feel like a small town, which is why when Mr. WholeHog suggests, as he does from time to time, that we cash out of the City and move to a smaller town, I don’t see the point. It feels to me like we’re already in a small town, or at least adjacent to one.



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