San Francisco's Bernal Heights Becomes Foodie Hotspot

San Franciso's Bernal HeightsOnly a few years after young families created a real estate boom in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood, another is happening in the neighborhood -- in the food business.

And not just new restaurants, although those are cropping up and adding unique tastes to residents' culinary choices, but also butcher shops, specialty food stores and a farmers market that still balances variety with affordability.

"You just never know what's going to crop up," Heights resident Stephanie Rosenbaum, 42, said of the green garbanzos she recently found at a farmer's stand.
Rosenbaum, a freelance writer and author of "The Astrology Cookbook," said in an interview with Housingwatch that Bernal Heights is low-key, popular with families that have dogs, and easy to walk around. She thinks the culinary shops have arrived because families in the neighborhood spend more money and time cooking.

The neighborhood was recently featured in The New York Times, which detailed how an area once best known for its drug trade has attracted restaurants and specialty food shops.

"Local residents trace its initial revival in the early 1990s to the opening of Good Life Grocery, a midsize market, and Liberty Cafe, which later drew a following for its upscale twist on chicken potpie," The Times wrote. "After young families, attracted to the neighborhood's tiny Victorian homes and narrow, walkable streets, created a real estate boom a few years ago, others built on the culinary foundation that had helped spark the turnaround."

The commercial strip, Cortland Avenue, is an area where residents are likely to run into someone they know, and where many of the new restaurants are opening. "Most of the restaurants in the neighborhood are weekday restaurants," Rosenbaum said, meaning they're places where residents can regularly go on weekdays without breaking the bank.

Shops include Paulie's Pickling, which sells East Coast-style deli sandwiches, and Bernal Cutlery. There's also Ichi Lucky Cat Deli (with its fish and prepared sushi rolls); El Porteño Empanadas (for empanadas with Prather Ranch beef); an organic produce stand; and Wholesome Bakery (for vegan and gluten-free sweets).

The area is affordable in a middle-class way, said Rosenbaum, who rents a house. Home buyers, on the other hand, should expect to see listings at around $1 million in Bernal Heights. The lowest price for a recently sold home was $890,000.

With spectacular views of San Francisco, Bernal Heights is an easy draw as a place to live. But being on a hill doesn't make it a dining destination for people outside the neighborhood -- at least so far, Rosenbaum said. The hill is a barrier -- both physical and mental -- to outsiders coming to eat there.

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