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20 Nov 21:02

A Sad, Sudden Farewell to the Deli Pub on Cortland

by Todd_Lappin




Your Bernalwood editor recently received some troubling reports that the venerable and much-loved Deli Pub sandwich shop on Cortland at Bocana had closed down. We heard rumors of a violent robbery at the Deli Pub, but our sources on Cortland were unable to confirm any details.

Bernal neighbor and celebrity journalist Tim Redmond heard those rumors too, and he graciously offered to investigate the story… and share his fond memories of a Bernal Heights institution. Tim writes:

I got a little nervous two weeks ago when I walked past the Deli Pub, my favorite sandwich shop ever, and saw that the doors were closed. That was odd: Imad, the proprietor and sandwich maker, was always there: Seven days a week, pretty much 365 days a year, he’s hanging out in the shop, chatting with his friends, serving Middle Eastern Plates and Turkey on a baguette to the small but loyal stream of customers.

My kids grew up at Imad’s, much as they grew up at the Bernal Playground and Progressive Grounds; these were the places we hung out. Michael and Vivian played Imad’s piano, and sometimes, when he wasn’t too busy (well, much of the time – he was never too busy) he’d pull down his drums and play along.

The Deli Pub couldn’t be closed, I figured. He must be taking a vacation.

But no – as the days passed, and I walked by the door, I started to see dead leaves on the table tops, and I realized something was very wrong.

Imad loved his plants. When I first discovered the place 18 years ago, the ficus trees were fairly small; by this summer, they covered every window and much of the interior space and were threatening to squeeze the customers out. But they never got cut back, and the forest-like atmosphere was part of the charm.

So if the trees were dying, the Deli Pub was in trouble.

And, indeed, word on the street is that Imad has retired. I haven’t been able to reach him, but I’m told he decided to call it a day (or a quarter-century) after a frightening robbery in October.

According to SFPD Public Affairs Officer Wilson Ng, three suspects entered the Deli Pub Oct. 10, at 7:42 pm. One of them told Imad he had a gun, and forced my old friend and neighborhood icon to lie on the floor while the looted the register. There was nobody else in the shop, but witnesses on the street described one Asian man and two of unknown race leaving the scene. There have been no arrests.

Imad (of course) had no security cameras. He barely had a stove – the burner he used to head his sandwiches and make his hot peanuts looked like it had been through several wars. But he managed to make great food, and he was always happy to share; when my kids and I came for lunch, he’d offer us whatever specialty he was working on that day. When Michael was born, he sent me home with a big plate of humus, tomatoes, and olives for Jean; he did the same thing later when Vivian joined the family.

So now, apparently, the Deli Pub – a part of us, a part of our community – is gone. I will miss it, terribly. And Imad, if you’re out there reading this, please hold a goodbye party; everyone I know will come.

PHOTOS: Leonard Znao via Google+

31 May 19:11

New “Virgil’s Sea Room” to Open in Former Naps III Bar on Mission Street

by Todd_Lappin




Friends and neighbors, we may be at a tipping point. The density of fine drinking establishments along Mission Street between 29th and Precita has reached such critical mass that we may have a full-fledged Cocktail Zone on our hands. Or at least a proper Nightlife District.

Consider: This drinky region of Bernal Heights and La Lengua can already lay proud claim to Rock Bar, Iron and Gold, The Royal Cuckoo, The Knockout, and El Rio. Now comes word that the new owners of the former Naps III space, on Mission at the intersection with Precita, plan to reopen soon with an evocative new name and a dashing new look.

The new bar will  be called Virgil’s Sea Room, and it is expected to open in the next few weeks. Here’s how it was described to us:

We are excited for Virgil’s Sea Room to become a part of the Bernal community and are honored to be taking over such a classic neighborhood space – the former Naps III. Most of us are long-time Mission residents and we are looking forward to opening a fantastic neighborhood bar. There are three partners and all of us belong to different but overlapping communities. We are aiming for a bar that truly reflects that, a space that is comfortable, friendly and welcoming for all walks of life: queer, straight, newly arrived or old school local – this is your spot.

Lila Thirkield is the owner and operator of The Lexington Club, which she started 16 years ago. She is also a community organizer and long time Mission resident.

Gillian Fitzgerald, originally from Ireland, was most recently found gratifying the masses with her delicious concoctions at Nickies in the Lower Haight, a busy neighborhood staple.

Tom Temprano is a co-founder and DJ of the soul party Hard French, he is also a community activist and President of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.

Transformed by the keen eye of design and vintage guru David Marks of, Virgil’s is meant to convey a sense of comfort and warmth that comes from features like the existing ornate wallpaper (found underneath all the beer posters!) and the expertly sourced vintage furniture and fixtures. With a focus on bringing people together, Virgil’s has a number of seating areas and cozy nooks set aside for your next visit.

Virgil’s Sea Room will feature delicious drinks that can be enjoyed by a cocktail enthusiast or a vodka soda drinker, and will run the gamut from a reimagined Sazerac to a Mojito. Our goal is to provide quality libations for all tastes at a reasonable price.

Sounds  promising. Also, personal bonus: Virgil’s Sea Room is close enough to my house that I could crawl home. Which I may need to do, at some point. Hopefully.

PHOTOS: Top, Courtesy of Virgil’s Sea Room. Below, new co-owner Gillian Fitzgerald, photographed by Telstar Logistics during a recent visit to El Rio, right next door.