San Francisco is known worldwide for its cuisine, not just for its quality and diversity, but also for the number of fine eateries throughout the City. Therefore, it should not be surprising that there is, in fact, a wealth of eating establishments; however, what is amazing is that you can find them in almost every corner of the City; not just in the more densely populated or touristy parts of San Francisco. Every neighborhood has at least one or more hidden gems, regardless of location or socioeconomic status.
In this article, I want to talk about the restaurants in Bernal Heights without necessarily reviewing them. There are plenty of other websites, such as Google Maps, Open Table, and Yelp, among others, that provide patron reviews for all the restaurants out there. What I would like to cover in this article, however, is a brief description of what makes these restaurants good and worth visiting.
3rd Cousin (www.3rdcousinsf.com) at 919 Cortland Avenue: this establishment is quite new to the Cortland Avenue corridor but has made a good impression on many local Bernal residents. The restaurant specializes in California and international cuisine with a regularly changing menu. Also, they pride themselves in using local, organic ingredients. I would recommend a particular dish, such as the Wagyu cheeseburger, but I am not sure they will still serve it when you go. In any event, their food is great, and I am sure you will see something on the menu you had never had before.
Bernal Star (www.bernalstar.com) at 410 Cortland Avenue is a long-standing eatery in the Bernal Heights district. They specialize in brunch burgers and comfort food, such as their check potpie, one of my personal favorites. This restaurant also has the particular additional feature of having a bakery/café annex in the rear part of the building with an open-air courtyard between them. Therefore, you can also go and grab a beverage or drink outside before and/or after your meal, plus they usually allow you to have your dog in the courtyard, provided he or she behaves.
Little Nepal (www.orderlittlenepal.com) at 925 Cortland Avenue used to be the only Nepalese restaurant in the City. Therefore, it still holds the title of being the “first” one, which I thought was rather bold when it opened, but San Franciscans are adventurous epicureans. The restaurant did well and had even mostly survived the pandemic. Their food is very delicious and unique, though it is a little reminiscent of Indian food. Also, the service is good, and they make you feel very welcome in their establishment. Be sure to check them out and ask for an Indian beer. Although I am a wine drinker, the beers pair much better with the Nepalese cuisine.
Moki’s Sushi & Seafood Grill (www.mokisf.com) at 615 Cortland Avenue is one of my favorite restaurants in the City, primarily because they serve sushi, my top three favorite cuisines. Therefore, by default, I already have a certain biased in favor of this restaurant. That said, they have the most creative sushi rolls you will find anywhere. So, when I dine here, I make it a point to order my usual maguro, sake, and Hamachi nigiri but always leave room for one or two of their rolls. I won’t tell you which ones, because they are all excellent. You may like the ingredients more in some than others. Also, since my partner is not a seafood fan, Moki’s has a dish or two for the non-fish lovers.
Piqueo’s (www.piqueos.com) at 830 Cortland Avenue is an excellent Peruvian restaurant in the Bernal neighborhood. I was one of their first clients when they opened close to two decades ago and have never been disappointed. In addition to serving traditional beef, pork, and seafood dishes from Peru, they also serve up some tasty tapas plates as appetizers or, depending on how hungry you are; they can add up to a full meal. The other great thing about Piqueo’s is that they have a covered patio where you can dine. And the service is always very friendly and professional.
Seafood Station (www.seafoodstationsf.com) at 803 Cortland Avenue serves up, as the name implies, fantastic seafood. They are a recent addition to selecting eateries on Cortland and have weathered the COVID pandemic so far. We wish them continued luck and hope they will continue serving up top-notch seafood dishes. They also have one or two non-seafood entrees, such as steak (and shrimp) for those non-seafood lovers.
Taco Los Altos (www.tacolosaltos.com) at 737 Cortland Avenue is a Mexican “taquería” serving generous and delicious fare amazingly reasonable for San Francisco prices. Also, as a Mexican myself, I can say that the food is authentic, plus the wait staff is friendly and will remember you when you go back. In addition to serving the standard Mexican dishes, most Americans know, and like, they also have some other fare, such as “ceviche tostadas” and “mole poblano,” among others. It is also a great place to order from and take home to eat, should you be in a hurry or want some comfort food while sitting on the sofa and watching TV.
Vega (www.vegapizzsf.com) at 419 Cortland Avenue is near and dear to me because of its location. Though at the time, the restaurant at this location was called “Valentina,” this locale is the place where my partner and I had our first date almost 16 years ago. Therefore, we always go back to the same spot every year to celebrate this anniversary. All that said, Vega does an amazing job preparing pizzas and other fancier Italian fare. Now, with a 9-year old daughter, the option of ordering fine Italian fare for us adults and a great pizza for our daughter makes this place an attractive location. Additionally, they have tables out front, should you want to dine outside during nice weather.
There are also café’s, bakeries, and other eateries on Cortland worth visiting, but for the sake of brevity, this article has focused primarily on actual restaurants. We hope that the information provided is helpful and that you enjoy your dining experience on Cortland Avenue in Bernal Heights (south slope.)