My neighborhood in San Francisco, which I extolled in a recent article, is like a little village, accessible to the delights of the greater city (amazing restaurants, eclectic shopping, incredible scenery) but somewhat removed from its messier realities (fog, traffic, earthquake liquefaction). I would have liked to have added “hippies” to the list of what we lack, but Bernal Heights, it turns out, is sort of like Berkeley West: We love our bulk granola, our tie-dyes (buy them every sunny Saturday outside Progressive Grounds), and our offbeat artists.
In Bernal, fortunately, those artists have ample room to display their talents, because we have two great galleries within our compact, walkable boundaries.
The most visible is Inclusions Gallery on the main drag, Cortland Avenue. Its traditional white environment features high-quality paintings, collage, photography, prints, sculpture, and glasswork. But the best thing about the place is its jewelry—gorgeous rings, necklaces, and other pieces in metal and stone. Whenever I walk down Cortland, the display cases by the windows turn my head.
Possibly the coolest gallery the whole city is Bernal’s own Secession Art & Design. Hidden away on a nondescript block of Mission Street across from a Safeway, this cleverly curated boutique mixes chic jewelry (just try to resist the wooden earrings with burnt cut-outs), funky urban art (Bughouse, for example, makes furniture and installations from vintage musical equipment), and offbeat clothing (including my most recent purchase: a kid’s T-shirt with Bernal’s zip code, the numbers filled in with the names of local streets).
When I’m done being all arty, I like to get my kid on by zooming down the Winfield/Esmeralda slides, two 40-foot chutes near the wooded intersection of Winfield Street and Esmeralda Avenue. Berkeley definitely doesn’t have anything like those.
This blog post was first published in October 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.