Beer and Chili: Old Bus Tavern, Opening in June, Also Raising Funds for a Fun Bonus Project

OBT Window of Wisdom

The emergence of our very own NanoTokyo District is an exciting development in Bernal’s culinary landscape, but that’s not the only food news to share from our stretch of Mission Street. A few hundred yards north of NanoTokyo, near the intersection with Valencia, the Old Bus Tavern is gearing up to open soon at 3193 Mission, in the former El Patio space:


Neighbor Bennett (Ben) Buchanan lives on Precita Avenue, and he’s one of the co-founders of the Old Bus Tavern. He says the focus will be on craft beer and haute chili, and he passes this along this preview:

Slated to open in Bernal Heights in early June, Old Bus Tavern is a destination for upscale pub fare, house-brewed beer, and comfortable craft cocktails. Partners Ben Buchanan, Jimmy Simpson, John Zirinsky, and Tim Symes are collaborating to create a neighborhood gathering place where guests can put away a pint of Lemon Basil Saison, enjoy cocktails with a Southwestern spirit, and dig into next-level bar food with a contemporary culinary sensibility.

The food and beverage menu is a team effort: Buchanan and Zirinsky are co-brewmasters (they’ve been home brewing together for nearly a decade), and Simpson and Symes oversee all food and beverage operations. Bar consultant Christina Cabrera (Novela, 15 Romolo, Range, Michael Mina) is on board to create the cocktail program, which will reflect the tavern’s forward-thinking approach.

Designed with the support of architect Thomas Pippin of Lifebox Studios (ICHI), and Sarah Greenwood Design (who is Zirinsky’s mom), Old Bus Tavern’s aesthetic embodies the feel of a casual restaurant, brewery, and bar that offers unique drinks and creative, craveable takes on pub food. The brewery equipment will be on full display so patrons can watch the process, and a variety of dedicated dining and drinking areas encourage patrons to settle into whichever of the Tavern’s 47 seats best suits them.

While the primary funding for the restaurant build-out is all lined-up, the Old Bus Tavern crew also has a crowdfunding campaign underway to raise some extra money to convert an old VW bus into a mobile food truck. The video they created for the effort also provides a nice introduction to what the Old Bus Tavern will be all about:

If you’d like, you can contribute to the effort — and learn more about the proposal — at the crowdfunding site.

Of course, there’s one detail that cannot pass without mention.  If you watch the Old Bus Tavern video above, you may notice something odd. Something very curious. Something very bizarre. At the beginning of the video, it says:

“Welcome to the future home of Old Bus Tavern, Mission-Bernal’s new brew pub.”

Hmmmm.  Confusing. And then, it happens again, just 15 seconds later:

“We want to bring back that tradition of fresh, local beer to the residents of Mission-Bernal”

Those latter words are spoken by none other than Neighbor Bennet of Precitaville, which is particularly baffling because Neighbor Bennet is a longtime Citizen of Bernalwood. You will notice that in the video, Neighbor Bennet’s lips move, and sounds emerge from his throat, and he says:


Mission-Bernal? Mission-Bernal!? Where is that? What is that? Does that even exist? And if it must be a hybrid, shouldn’t it be Bernal-Mission?

Your Bernalwood editor brought this matter up with Neighbor Bennet of Precitaville, and he assured us that it was just a big misunderstanding. Neighbor Bennet said something about establishing a brand and **cough cough** a national marketing plan and… to be honest, I couldn’t even pay attention to what he was saying after a while because I was to busy feeling queasy and hyperventilating. I mean… Mission-Bernal?  What?

Suffice to say, after some constructive dialog, Neighbor Bennet now understands with perfect clarity that the Old Bus Tavern will be opening soon in a place called Bernal Heights, and that the Citizens of Bernal Heights are very excited to welcome their new establishment to our lands. We’ve received tacit assurances that geo-nomenclature matters will be handled with greater sensitivity in the future.

But just in case there’s any lingering ambiguity, Bernalwood also sent the Old Bus Tavern team this helpful best-practices guide:


PHOTOS: Courtesy of Old Bus Tavern

27 thoughts on “Beer and Chili: Old Bus Tavern, Opening in June, Also Raising Funds for a Fun Bonus Project

  1. That video is delightfully awkward and completely charming. Looking forward to this place!

  2. My offering for a name for the Mission St. Corridor between the inner and outer Missions is…


    “La Lengua” is a touch too latin-erotic for the merchants’ tastes and only the East side of Mission St. is Bernal Heights proper (do we agree on that technically?). “Mission-Bernal” is odd and could apply to “Precitaville” just as well. Some people have suggested “Inter-Mission” but that sounds like the time to load up on popcorn. While “Transmission” is justified as “Across the two Missions” and sounds like the revving engine of the “Greater Co-prosperity Sphere” the La Lengua activists are active on.

    Anyway I hope there’s more than Chili. And that they pick up after themselves at the Dolo.

  3. Ugh… “upscale pub fare”… “craft cocktails”… “establishing a brand and a national marketing plan”. Not to mention losing the overlooked El Patio.

    While nice to have some different food options, this seems so… I dunno, geared specifically to the techies/hipsters.

    Plus, I have had their chili at Pizza Hacker. Meh.

  4. In my mind I was saying “Mission/Bernal [Heights]” since we anticipate seeing patrons from both neighborhoods. Our landlord has been living above the space for 20 years and she calls it the Mission.

    @Neighbor Peter, anything but La Lengua please! And don’t worry, we’ll have a creative menu that extends well beyond chili. Also, we’re not park slobs.

  5. HUH? I mean, HUH? Craft beer and “haute” chili? Sorry. Gimme CRAP beer and HOT chili, please. Thanks goodness there are still places left in SF where I can get both and still get change back from my $10 bill.

    I’d absolutely LOVE to see someone open a beer and chili place similar in concept to the Trouble Coffee Company, specializing in cinnamon toast, pickled vegetables, and coconut stuff. Not “craft” anything, just comfort food put together by someone who needed comfort. Dang, maybe I should do it myself…

  6. Beer & chili? That is probably thee worst idea I’ve ever heard. That place is gonna be stinky and especially at night up at night. Then going home will be no picnic. You’ll be stinking up your own house. That’s no fun. Also, waking up will not be pretty either. Beer & chili at a BBQ in the park, no problem. Beer & chili in a bar, no way! I’m not going at all and If I do, it’ll be for take out only. Otherwise, good luck with the business.

  7. I am especially looking forward to the beer. I also heard rumors there maybe a burger on the menu and I would love a good burger and with a Farmhouse Ale. I am rooting for these guys and look forward to popping in before lumbering up the hill on the way home on a regular basis.

  8. As a proud inhabitant of Bernal, if I were opening a restaurant in that area, I wouldn’t hesitate to say Mission-Bernal. Who wouldn’t want to entice patrons from both areas? Let’s hear it for restaurants that are doing their best to stay in business!

    • How long have you inhabited the hood? Only old timers get to make such decisions, per the Bernal code of opinion making, as posted in the community center.

    • We really appreciate the support we’re seeing here in the comments!

      @Ilana G, there will always be a veg chili on the menu!

  9. Ah, beer. The cause of–and answer to–all of life’s problems!
    I look forward to a more sudsy neighborhood. Hopefully once you get through the new establishment growing pains you’ll do some home brew classes?

    • @Jrod, we definitely plan on offering homebrew classes once we’re up and running, so stay tuned!

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