Vega Freeman-Brady Explains the Inspiration for Bernal Star


The transformation and rebranding of the venerable Liberty Cafe has generated lots of buzz in Greater Cortlandia. Now called Bernal Star, with a menu focused on burgers, Cali-comfort food, and craft beer, your Bernalwood editor observed a thick crowd of curious neighbors waiting for tables outside Bernal Star  last Friday evening.

But why the change? What’s up with Bernal Star? What’s the big idea?

In an email to Bernalwood, Vega Freeman-Brady, the proprietor of Bernal Star and Vega (across the street), shared her thoughts on these questions, along with her vision of what she wants the restaurant to become:

Dear Bernal Heights,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that the Liberty café closed its doors on Monday June 16th. As many of you may know, our restaurant was the proud brainchild of Cathie Guntli. She opened shop in 1994 to cook simple hearty food in a neighborhood that was a bit run down. It was bold and unpretentious. She served good food that was unabashedly American in a restaurant that felt like home. It helped put Bernal Heights on the map and changed our neighborhood forever. Cathie was good, kind and a delight of a human being.

We lost Cathie five years ago. It would be a crime to say that the restaurant was unaffected. The Liberty Café was her restaurant, her cuisine, her idea. The love and hard work that she put into it was appreciated by all. Her memory will always be cherished in Bernal Heights.

We are stepping away from Cathie’s restaurant and creating our own. We want to create a laid back, brunch, lunch, dinner restaurant – a place to hang out with family and friends. We will only serve grass-fed, humanely raised meats and organic dairy and produce.

Liberty was always in the center of the Bernal Heights community, so in keeping that line, we will be hosting local chefs once a month, on the last Thursday of the month in the back cottage for international dinners. The idea is to encourage local cooks/chefs to meet people in the neighborhood and highlight their talents.

Also, we will be serving 6 beers on tap and will ideally have more than one Bernal brew… Looking forward to seeing you/discussing involvement in the new restaurant – Bernal Star!


The Bernal Star (and Liberty) Staff & Management

Daily/weekly Events:

*Movies on the heated patio (sundown)
*1/2 off all bottles of wine on Tuesdays
*Daily Beer and Burger Happy hour ($15 burger and a beer 4pm -6pm)
*Monthly international dinners w rotating guest chefs (let us know if you would like to be a guest chef!) in the Cottage

We have 6 local beers on tap, and would love to serve any bernal brews – if you have some, or know someone who does, please contact us! 415.695.8777

Sunday/Monday 9am – 3pm
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 10pm
Saturdays 9am – 10pm

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

17 thoughts on “Vega Freeman-Brady Explains the Inspiration for Bernal Star

  1. Happy to welcome the new cafe to our hood, but what an absolutely horrible experience at Vega as a result. Since they were now short-staffed the other nite and couldn’t seat/serve patrons properly. Empty tables while unseated people were waiting. Watched numerous folks leave even after FINALLY being seated…including us. Won’t be back anytime soon as a result.

    • Cut them some slack, servers do suddenly call in sick, not always able to have no idea why they were short staffed…

      • Agreed. We’ve been happy returning customers at Vega including two nights ago. Everything was fine.

  2. The menu looks great, but they’d be wise not to use “B-Star” (as it appears on the PDF menus) unless they want to get a cease-and-desist letter from the original B-Star’s trademark lawyer! I’m happy to see that they’ll be offering a housemade veggie burger — I can’t wait to try it. The Farro Salad also looks delightful.

  3. Burger good , bun did not hold up for even half the burger and French Fries were soggy. Would try again but not soon .

  4. We asked for burgers, we got one. I tried it over the weekend. Overall pretty good, the fries need some work. The patty was that loose ground chuck sort of hand flattened patty. Really nice bun. The fries were not crispy enough. Someone didn’t keep them in the fryer for long enough.
    My main gripe is not about the price. For brunch with fries and cheese I think it was $14. I just thought it was a little too big for brunch. Would be nice to make the whole thing a little smaller and drop $2/$3.

  5. If they are serving full menu in that culinarily scarce 3pm-5:30pm window that will win them plaudits here.

  6. I agree with nsfw about the prices. They’re not sky high, but they make me think “occasional visit” rather than “regular.” In particular, I struggle with a $9 kids burger that didn’t fill up my seven year old. He’s going to need two! I’ve heard complaints about pricing at the Precita Park Cafe, but at least their kids items are a very attractive $3.

    Other thoughts:
    -Unlike other commenters, I had a GREAT experience with the sweet potato fries, which were cooked perfeclty.
    -My bun and veggie burger destabilized quickly, but I soldiered on.
    -Nice ambiance and good service.

  7. We had a great lunch at Bernal Star this past weekend. The patio is such a great spot and the servers are always great. The kids loved their fish and chips. Look forward to trying the dinner menu soon.

  8. Plea to the mgmt: PLEASE make your menu more progressively vegetarian friendly.

    Honestly, I was seriously bummed as a patron of the Liberty Cafe, former cottage,and movie nights of many years to read the posted menu and see how carnivorous it is. Liberty was a lot friendlier.

    Burgers, great!

    So how about some house veggie burgers done right and more adventurously than a defrosted Boca Burger with some lettuce, no cheese, and a tomato? That would be frickin awesome, especially with good beer on tap.

    I’m not asking for Millennium South, much as I’d like that — just more than a token single item in each category.

    Pretty please.

    PS that also means affordable vegetarian kid options. Kid veggie burgers! Go ahead. Shock and awe us.

  9. I suppose I am a “same-ist” because I was pleased to go on Sunday for breakfast and find the exact same menu and the exact same sweet, bright-eyed waitress with purple hair who always waits on me. I don’t eat burgers so I’ll be sticking to my weekend routine. A seamless transition!

  10. I’m sitting here on Friday morning and there is one obviously miserable waitress with a bad attitude serving the entire restaurant. Are the owners reading these posts? Hello?

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