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Why Bernal is the New Mission

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As the Marina-esque gentrification gradually extends south from Lombard to Valencia, the usual watering holes of the service industry professional have been polluted by the bridge and tunnel crowd that now, more then ever, frequent the Mission.  Many of the safe havens and bolt-holes with no line to the bathrooms/bar/venue are few and far between.  However, this isn’t cause to give up and move to Oakland just yet, all you need to do is make it a few more blocks south, pass over the divide that is Cesar Chavez and you’re there.  The pre-tech utopia that is so, Mission 2009. Folks, Bernal Heights is the new Mission [editor’s note: the region being discussed has also famously been called La Lengua].

You may have ventured to this particular neck of the woods to eat a big ol’ plate of spaghetti and meatballs at Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack.  And/ or, if you were so inclined, you’d party on at El Río on a Sunday afternoon, to make the most of the patio and the very fortuitous occasion where there might actually be the chance of some sun.  However, there are a couple of hidden gems that may have flown under the radar.

First and foremost, right next to El Río, is the quiet, quaint Virgil’s Sea Room.  If you still want your “El Cheapo” can of Mexican beer, they have that.  However, they also have a pretty decent backbar, bartenders that know what they’re doing, a patio (wait, what?!) and generally all the things El Río does, without the lip or forty-thousand college kids smoking Camels.  Sure its probably not going to be a “rager” like it is next door, but you can sit at the patio and enjoy the reveling from a distance, with your own group of friends and actually be able to hear yourself think.

Just across the road is Iron & Gold, this place is kind of like your really endearing aunty whose just gotten into craft cocktails but has always had a rad record collection, so you can’t wait to go over to her house.  They have crafts, happy hours, djs and I’ve been in there more than once when they were serving beer cooked hot dogs for FREE.  Oh and you can hear- like actually hear– you can hear the music, the bartender, the friend speaking to you and the guy down the end of the bar fruitlessly hitting on that tattooed lesbian.

Finally- and here’s the real clincher of why the new Mission is Bernal- The Royal Cuckoo.  Now this place is dark.  Real dark. Dark as if no one changed the candles since 1965.  Once your eyes adjust, however, you start to notice the hodgepodge of taxidermy and lamps, a Hammond in the corner, record player next to the bar and church pew seating.  You don’t come here for anything fancy, but a decent beer, a boozy manhattan, live music five nights a week, and a FREE Sunday BBQ in the garden out back( …I’ve promised next Sunday, if I go, I’d bring my Nick Cage records.)  This place is a real special treat, and one of the reasons why Bernal is the new Mission.

If you’re after shooting pool with a bunch of bros or listening to some terrible cover band murder classic rock anthems, then I’m sure there’s a bar on Valencia for you.  If you want somewhere you can meet a friend after work, or take a new love interest on a date- somewhere with a patio that isn’t crammed to the eyeballs- then give Bernal a shot.

Virgil’s Sea Room
3152 Mission Street (@ Precita)
[Bernal Heights/ Outer Mission]

Iron & Gold
3187 Mission Street (@ Fair)
[Bernal Heights/ Outer Mission]

The Royal Cuckoo
3202 Mission Street (@ Valencia)
[Bernal Heights/ Outer Mission]

Image courtesy of The Royal Cuckoo

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Lachlan Bray - Broke-Ass Bartender

Lachlan Bray - Broke-Ass Bartender

Lachlan is a landlubbin' scallywag hailin' from the great southern rock in the south pacific, Australia.

He enjoys plundering bootie, singin' sea shanties, and swiggin' rum. He tends bar by night and is engaged in acts of piracy by day. When he's not whimsically tinkin' about the seven seas; he produces spoken word events, works for a theater company and writes on all he sees.

But currently he's more than a bit taken with being paid to dress up as a pirate for children's birthday parties and summer camps...