Exploring San Francisco through the lens of city blocks, Blocker is a weekly series by Charles Hodgkins. Look for it on SFist each Wednesday, around the lunching hour.
View the map of all published Blocker episodes.
Blocker, No. 18: Cortland Ave. in Bernal Heights
Aspiring painters of urban village scenes would do well to get themselves to Bernal Heights at once. From the armada of sandwich boards and the pony-tailed guy enjoying a pensive cup of coffee at Progressive Grounds, to the verdant street trees and the pair of rowdy sidewalk philosophers holding court near the eastern end of the block, it’s quite the bustling display along Cortland Ave. Private lives seem a low priority here, as even the back yards of local bars, cafés, and restaurants are open for business.
Sidewalk rest stops are a big calling card on Cortland between Andover and Bennington, the heart of Bernal Heights’ vibrant commercial district. There are benches in front of restaurants (Valentina Ristorante), benches in front of salons (Bernal Heights Nail Care), benches in front of markets (The Good Life Grocery), benches in front of saloons (Wild Side West). The result: A remarkable feeling of community, evinced by how it appears as if everyone might actually know everyone else’s name. It’s like a West Coast version of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry...only on Cortland, there’s no Barney Fife. Auditions may or may not be held regularly at Skip’s Tavern and Wild Side West for the role of Otis the Harmless Town Drunk.