Magazine article Sunset

Summer in the City: Bernal Heights Offers San Francisco Scenery, Sunshine, and Snacks. (Travel)

Magazine article Sunset

Summer in the City: Bernal Heights Offers San Francisco Scenery, Sunshine, and Snacks. (Travel)

Article excerpt

When I say I live in Bernal Heights, nobody seems to know where it is. But this southerly San Francisco neighborhood is easy to spot from the far reaches of the city. From almost anywhere on Van Ness Avenue and parallel streets, look south and you'll see a hill topped with a tuft of trees: that's Bernal.

The same trick works in reverse. Bernal Heights Park (also called Bernal Hill Park; Bernal Heights Blvd. at Folsom St.) affords 360[degrees] views of the city, without the crowds of Twin Peaks or other well-known viewpoints. The open space is popular with neighborhood residents, who climb the red-earth paths and jog on the loop road with their dogs. On a clear day, you'll see the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Diablo, and points to the south. And best of all, you can stand in the sun and smugly watch the fog roll across the city.

More rewards are found on the hill's lower slopes. On the north side, quiet Precita Park (Precita Ave. and Folsom) is ringed by community art. Look for gorgeous spirals of color, inspired by an Aztec poem, on the back of Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School (Precita at Harrison St). Across the park, if you're lucky, you might find a box offering "Free Kid's Art" from the classes at Precita Eyes (348 Precita; no public access or mural tours at this location), the teaching branch of the art center responsible for many of the murals in the Mission District. If you're hungry, stop in at corine's Deli Cafe (3202 Folsom; 415/641-5051) for a hot pastrami on rye--this sandwich alone earns the deli its slogan, "Home of the Happy Tummy."

Head up the hill to explore Bernal's residential north and west sides, where you'll find hidden staircases and hilly streets that snake around to reveal unexpected views. A long series of stairs runs through shady gardens and pocket parks, from Coleridge Street at Esmeralda Avenue to aptly named Prospect Avenue and the vertiginous Elsie Street, which is lined with charming houses.

Homemade ice cream and banana cream pie

If you need refreshment after all that climbing, go south to Bemal's commercial hub, Cortland Avenue. A small but solid selection of restaurants, cafes, and shops, plus San Francisco's rarest commodity--abundant street parking--make it worth a trip. The perfect coffee break is at Progressive Grounds (400 Cortland Ave.; 415/282-6233), a sprawling, friendly spot with a sunny back patio. For an afternoon treat, pop into colorful ice cream parlor Maggie Mudd (903 Cortland; 415/641-5291), where you can check your email, order a lavish sundae, or just get a scoop--including deliciously unusual flavors like licorice, huckleberry, or cotton candy--in a made-to-order waffle cone. …

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