NFT San Francisco Berkeley (West)

Berkeley (West)

Overview
The city of Berkeley, famous for its university and seismically sensitive land, has a long history of community activism. And while the memory of radical ideas still permeates the air, as you get closer to the center and its many academic establishments (besides the UC, there are also the Graduate Theological Union, Vista Community College, and various vocational schools), you're now more likely to encounter a Starbucks than a protest. Shattuck Avenue, the commercial street that runs the length of the city, hosts a staggering array of restaurants and bars (but beware; prices increase as you move further north). Telegraph Avenue, extending southward from campus, is where the out-of-towners shop, the punks beg, and the freshmen eat. Most of the properties in North Berkeley are occupied by studious grad students who don't even have time to enjoy their fabulous views; West Berkeley is a residential mecca; and artistic creativity thrives in gritty South Berkeley. Each neighborhood has a different feel, but the city has an almost unmatched cohesive pride.See more.

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Berkeley coffee shops, once hotbeds of activism, have made a seamless transition into 21st-century café culture: Brewed Awakening (1807 Euclid Ave) is filled with students typing papers; at Au Coquelet (2000 University Ave) you can play scrabble and get a hot meal until 1am; at the Free Speech Movement Café (Moffit Undergraduate Library, UC Berkeley Campus) you can learn about Berkeley's most famous social movement and sip a great latte; and you can sit and blog away your concerns at Caffe Strada (2300 College Ave). Visit the original Peet's Coffee & Tea (2124 Vine St) for a strong cup of joe and a taste of a true Berkeley institution.

For cultural experiences, there is no shortage of activity: La Peña (3105 Shattuck Ave) hosts performing arts showcases, poetry slams, and documentaries with a focus on Latin American politics and culture. Next door, Starry Plough slams poetry on Wednesdays over a pint of Guinness. At Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Ave) you can rock your body to world and roots music. The Pacific Film Archive, located on campus, screens rare and rediscovered prints of movie classics, new and historic works by great international film directors, restored silent films, and indie fiction and documentaries. On-stage entertainment in this town ranges from neighborhood theater companies like the Shotgun Players and the nationally renowned Berkeley Repertory Theatre to original punk rock at 924 Gilman.

Food
Famous for both its fancy eateries like Chez Panisse, and its cheap on-the-go bites like La Burrita, Berkeley offers the palate variety that mirrors the diversity of the town's population. Visit the Farmers Market (Sat, Tues, Wed, Thurs; check www.ecologycenter.org/fm for locations) for organic veggies, tree-ripened fruits, and handmade artisan breads. Sit on the grass and have delicious mango sticky rice at Thai Temple's popular Sunday Brunch (Russell St & MLK Jr Wy). Order a slice of gourmet vegetarian pizza at The Cheese Board (1504 Shattuck Ave), or try the Chicago-style deep dish at Zachary's (1853 Solano Ave). If you're looking for the perfect sandwich, visit Elmwood Café (2900 College Ave), and don't miss the homemade quiche. While you're at it, ask any of the college kids, and they won't deny: no outing is complete without a cheap, low-fat indulgence at Yogurt Park (2433 Durant Ave).

Outdoors
To get away from the rumble, walk up Euclid Avenue. Extraordinary views of San Francisco across the Bay will accompany you on your stroll. Less than a mile uphill sits the Rose Garden, and then, through the tunnel, you'll discover Cordonices Park's playground and picnic area. If you have a car, explore Tilden Park. Just a bit higher is the expanse of Tilden Park: there's hiking, a golf course, and even Lake Anza with a beach (yes, it's fake). Climbers and sunset-lovers prefer the crags of Indian Rock at the northern end of Shattuck Avenue. For more of the bay's magnificent views, take a relaxing hike or run up the fire trail behind the stadium, past Strawberry Canyon, and pick blackberries on the side of the road (when you get to the bench at the top, continue to Lawrence Berkeley Labs on 1 Cyclotrone Road, or head back down). On the other side of town, you can rollerblade or bike from North Berkeley BART all the way to Richmond on Ohlone Greenway.

How to Get There
With BART stations at Ashby, Downtown, and North Berkeley, and AC Transit running from San Francisco and Oakland, getting to Berkeley on public transportation is easy. However, be aware that BART trains stop running around midnight, and AC Transit service runs on a limited schedule in the late night/early morning hours. If you're arriving by car, exit on University Avenue from I-80 E, or follow Hwy 13 into town from the east. Street parking is tough around campus and on the main drags of Telegraph and Shattuck Avenues, but patience and persistence often pay off. For lot parking, the UC Berkeley parking lots or the Telegraph/Channing Lot (2431 Channing Wy) are always good options, but be sure to get your ticket validated or prices will be steep.




         



On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Hopkins Street Bakery
Maybe donuts aren't junk food I'm not much of a donut eater--I'll take a croissant or a scone or a muffin any day over a deep-fried, sugar-coated pastry--but I'm in love with the raspberry jam donuts at Hopkins Street Bakery. While most of the other treats at the bakery aren't unlike those you've seen elsewhere, the raspberry donut tastes--dare I say it--wholesome, at least compared with the transfat-laced variety you'd find at your average donut shop. The raspberry jam isn't too sweet, so that you're not overwhelmed with a sugar overload. And at $1.50, it's even cheaper than a cookie. A great deal for a fluffy, fruity taste of heaven.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Everest Cafe
Last year, the longstanding Sushi Sho on Solano Avenue closed its doors, and in its place came the Everest Cafe. While some customers are still bummed about the loss, its replacement is a delightful addition to the neighborhood. The new cuisine couldn't be more different, although there is seafood to be found on the menu in the form of curries. You're not likely to find salmon curry or shrimp vindaloo high up in the Himalayas, but if you want something more authentic, go for the goat curry or momo, the traditional steamed dumplings. If you want to eat like a sherpa, the thukpa noodle soup is a favorite. Much of the selection may look familiar, with many Indian standards such as chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, and naan, as well as a Nepali take on chow mein. Dinner comes with a starter of daal soup. Here's to hoping Everest will be around for many years to come.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Zaki Kabob House
Zaki Kabob House is one of those restaurants that you want to tell everyone about since it's so insanely good. But on the other hand you don’t want to tell anyone lest it becomes even more crowded and they run out of rotisserie chicken even sooner in the evening. There is rotisserie chicken and then there is rotisserie chicken, and Zaki Kabob House has the latter. Food snobs, fussy eaters, and your generally difficult dining companions will love the chicken here. Not only is it incredibly delicious but a whole chicken dinner is under $14. You will want to order the whole chicken dinner because believe you me you’ll want leftovers. The rest of the menu consists of dishes apropos for a typical Middle Eastern restaurant but Zaki Kabob House also offers nightly Palestinian specials. Whatever you order, make sure that you get the mint lemonade to go with it--you'll be thanking me for years to come! Go early in the evening, or at lunch, to ensure that you'll get a chance to order the chicken. 



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Trove
Admit it: even though you've convinced yourself that you're satisfied with the furniture and housewares you've acquired second-hand through Craigslist, you secretly wish you could have gotten them new, and that it was a little more chic. If only the cost of a cherry-finished coffee table wasn't equal to your monthly rent. Trove, located in Gilman Village, is the best bet for making that possible. Want to accessorize your dull utilitarian couch with some colorful, embroidered throw pillows? Think that bistro-style plates and bowls would add some class to your kitchen? You could find all that here, and actually afford it, with prices being up to 70% off. Though technically an outlet, it certainly doesn't have the feel of one, with an endless array of unique high-quality furnishings and accessories that put Pier 1 and Pottery Barn to shame. Even if you don't really need anything new, it's still fun to come in and browse, and remind yourself that you don't need to hit up Craig or the flea market the next time you need a new bed frame or tumbler set.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Berkeley Bowl
Only one event can relieve the parking wars and mobs of shoppers at Berkeley Bowl--the opening of a new location, Berkeley Bowl West, on Heinz. The sleek new building offers all the same goods as the flagship location, and even hosts an adjoining cafe. Thanks to a spacious interior, you can now shop for your produce, baked goods and prepared foods without bumping into yuppie mommies and daddies or annoying Berkeley students. And with no long lines at check-out, you won't have to weave your way through customers as you make your way from one end of the store to the other. Drivers can also take note that there is more parking available both in the lot and on the street, so there's no need to piss off the friendly folks at Walgreens. Even if you live closer to the original location, consider shopping here--you'll probably find the experience more pleasant and become a convert.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Tokyo Fish Market
San Pablo Ave may be a far cry from Tokyo, but the tiny Tokyo Fish Market carries a selection of Japanese groceries that can rival any across the Pacific. The sushi grade fish is among the best to be found, perfect for anyone forgoing restaurant sushi in favor of crafting their own. But there's much more than fish to be found here. The market is stocked with everything from packaged ramen noodles to kewpie mayonaise. If you want to make fresh miso soup, there are multiple brands of miso paste to choose from. In fact, anything you'd need to prepare an authentic Japanese feast will be found here. But if you don't feel like cooking, there is a good selection of prepared meat and sushi. And for those with a fetish for all things Japanese, there is an adjacent gift shop full of kitchenware, lunch boxes, and other goodies from Japan. After a stroll through, you'll forget you were in North America.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Black Oak Books
Recently, I've been dismayed by the demise of so many businesses around the Bay Area, in particular independent bookstores. So when I passed by Black Oak Books' flagship location in Berkeley and saw an empty shop, I assumed that it had become yet another victim of the recession and feared that there was just no longer a place for its kind in a world dominated by Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. Turns out that Black Oak Books only lost its lease, and has thus is in the process of forging a new identity. It promises to remain in business even without a retail outlet, temporarily moving online and continuing to purchase books for cash. For customers looking for the old-fashioned bookstore experience, a weekend retail location will soon open. Of all the local used bookstores, I'd say that this one has the best chance of survival.



Posted By:  Carolyne Rohrig
Photo:  Carolyne Rohrig

The Acme Bread Company
Traveling an hour by car to buy bread sounds nuts, but I'm crazy about Acme Bread in Berkeley. Simply put, they make the best bread in the Bay Area. Their baguettes are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. I can devour one all by myself even before paying for my order. I stock up on olive bread, made with green olives, rosemary focaccia, New York rye that tastes like the real thing, walnut and cranberry loaves that are so packed with ingredients you need muscles to carry them, and Italian batard that makes incredible French toast. Oh, and I can never deny myself the ham and cheese turnovers that are flaky and oozing with flavor, so I toss a few of those into the bag as well.



Posted By:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen
Photo:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen

Fellini
Fellini is a great place to go when you want to eat out, eat healthy, and not spend a lot of money. With the slippery economy these days, many of us are eating out less frequently to try to save a few bucks. But let's face it, we all need to be waited on every now and then. At Fellini you get all the experience of a luxurious dinner out without the hefty price tag. The menu changes seasonally and always offers several pasta dishes, pizzas, and vegetarian, seafood and chicken entrees. You can substitute grilled tofu for seafood or chicken to make almost any dish veggie-friendly. You can even get soy bacon or vegan pepperoni on your pizza (remember, this is Berkeley, California). Add to that a respectable selection of wines and craft microbrews on tap, and the experience is complete. That is, until you get the dessert menu.



Posted By:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen
Photo:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen

Albatross Pub
Feel like you want to get away to a place where everybody knows your name, but Boston is a bit too far? Head to the Albatross. A visit to Berkeley's oldest pub can feel like being welcomed into the home of an old friend. On cold evenings, you can snuggle fireside with a pint of Guinness and a game of checkers. For a battle of the brains, treat a friend to a single malt scotch and a game of chess. Got a knack for retaining useless facts? Show off your talent on Trivia Night, held every Sunday at 8:30 pm. The Albatross is the perfect place to gather your friends for a few rounds of drinks, interesting conversation, and good old-fashioned fun with board games. There's a pool table and dartboards, Boggle and Balderdash, and popcorn and pizza, all set in a cozy, homey atmosphere.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Casa Latina
Living in Berkeley, there are certainly some big-city things we lack. Like a neighborhood panaderia and taqueria, for instance. Don't get me wrong, I generally like the burritos and pastries I can get here. They just don't quite live up to the pollo asado or pan dulce you could get at your typical Mission joint. So after passing by Casa Latina so many times on the bus, I knew I had to give the place some attention. As soon as I walked in, the sight of pan dulce, biscuits, and croissants, not to mention the flan and fresh fruit cups, almost made me do a double-take to make sure I wasn't on Valencia. Then there were the burritos that, while not cheap, are stuffed generously and definitely give you bang for your buck. So if I'm stuck in the East Bay for the weekend and am craving a Mission burrito or taco, I'll stop by again.



Posted By:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen
Photo:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen

Cafe M
On a recent Sunday morning in Berkeley, I found myself fourteenth in the waiting list for a table at Bette's Oceanview Diner on Fourth Street. Bette's is a breakfast and brunch staple in this part of town. But with a groaning stomach after a night of sufficient wine drinking, I didn't think I'd make it another hour without some serious breakfast. I wandered over to Cafe M, a relative Fourth Street newcomer. There was no line for a table, despite the fact that this open, airy cafe was busy with hungry brunchers. The service was friendly and quick, and before I realized it, I was chowing down on some blueberry buttermilk pancakes with pecan butter and powdered sugar, and swiping healthy forkfuls of marinated tofu scrambler from my companion’s plate. Cafe M serves breakfast all day and has a lunch menu with irresistible edibles like portobello quesadillas and a prime rib melt with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese. Next time you're craving some satisfying brunch food but aren't up for a long line, head over to Cafe M.




Posted By:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen
Photo:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen

Picante
Warm, fresh-baked corn tortillas. Spicy, sweet mole sauce. Fresh-squeezed lime margaritas. When I'm craving some home-style Mexican food, I head to Picante. The location next to industrial plants and construction sites in West Berkeley isn't ideal, but you can escape all that out back in the garden surrounded by lush greenery and singing birds. I always start with the fresh guacamole and warm tortilla chips. Then I move on to veggie tacos with black beans, smothered in mole and sprinkled with Mexican cheese. On a sunny afternoon, after a pitcher of margaritas or a few cervezas, I imagine I'm in Mexico. Once the buzz wears off, I'm stuffed and satisfied and ready for a siesta.




Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

900 Grayson
I rarely order the same dish twice. I quite like the excitement and mystery of trying something new. But if there was a dish that I would order again and again, it's the Demon Lover, aka Fried Chicken and Waffle, at 900 Grayson. While I prefer not to eat anything too heavy for breakfast, the fried chicken smothered with cream gravy sprinkled with a bit of cayenne is my new favorite topping for a plain buttermilk waffle. I never would have thought to create such a savory dish with a waffle. Though it was a bit much for one person, I was determined to finish it to the last bite. And now all I can think of is heading back for another. Perhaps on my next visit I'll order the vegetarian version, the Seitan Lover, with fried wheat gluten in place of the chicken, for variety.



Posted By:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen
Photo:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen

Sola Lucy
What's hot: Being green, being thrifty, being chic. What's not: Being asked to pay full price for stylish clothes mass-produced in China. That's where Sola Lucy comes in. For all you fashionistas who love labels but hate designer price tags, Sola Lucy just might have what you're looking for. Sure, they might be pushing it with the "green" thing (Are we really saving the planet buying handbags on consignment?), but recycled clothing does have its perks: high-heeled leather boots are gently scuffed, so it looks like you had them before they were "in" for the season; and those $200 jeans you just weren't ready to shell out for at full price are only a fraction of the cost, thanks to somebody else's deep pocketbook and fickle fashion sense. And if you've got a few fashionable pieces in your own closet that you're willing to part with, the ladies at Sola Lucy might be willing to take 'em off your hands. What's best: Sola Lucy is off the beaten path on Berkeley's Fourth Street, so you won't have to battle mobs of bargain hunters for those lightly used Joe's Jeans that just happen to be your size.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Urbanity Style Sharing
Just when I got used to having one cool clothing shop in my backyard, along comes Urbanity. And even though I have yet to make my first purchase, I'm already concerned about the future of my wallet. The just-opened consignment store on Solano Ave. features designer and boutique clothing at reasonable prices. Though many of its offerings are second-hand, the store definitely does not have the aura of Salvation Army. It's a place where cool urbanites walk away with fabulous finds to stuff their closets. And if you need to make room in your wardrobe for your new threads, consider bringing some of your old stuff in for consignment.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Coquette
If there was one thing Solano Avenue needed, it was a chic boutique. Don't get me wrong, it's already got several clothing stores, but they all seem to cater to the over 35 crowd. Where am I supposed to go if I want more than just the Gap or Banana Republic basics? So when Coquette recently opened, I finally got just what I wanted on one of my favorite drags of Berkeley, alongside the ethnic restaurants and independent bookstore. The selection is refreshingly trendy and stylish, without a hint of that gosh darned hippie influence Berkeley is known for. Frequent discounts and a sale rack mean that good deals can be found. And unlike so many boutiques, you won't feel too pressured to buy anything if it doesn't feel right. A rare find indeed.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Vik's Chaat Corner
It's one of those days when you feel like having Indian food. In this heat, though, you know it isn't the day for curry, yet you want more than just samosas and pakoras. But wait--before giving in and settling for a salad or sandwich instead, this is the time to try those cold Indian dishes. Vik's Chaat Corner has a daily menu of specialties with the kick that Indian cuisine is known for, without the heat. There are the puris, dahi pakori, and papdi, topped with yogurt, chutney, and spices. Afterwards, you can choose from the tempting sweets in the display case or even a kulfi falooda, an Indian ice cream float. If you need your curry or dosa fix, though, you can try those, too.



Posted By:  Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan
Photo:  Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan

I'm a food sample whore. Yeah, I said it. No apologies. No qualifications. My heart begins to flutter when I'm near the sample island at Trader Joe's, and don't even get me started about the pretzel dog bites at Costco. But the place with the most highfalutin' samples has got to be the Pasta Shop on Fourth Street on a Saturday or Sunday. On a recent trip, I sampled two different English cheddar cheeses; goat milk gouda; four olive oils (with chunks of baguette) including Olio Verde, a young, very green, small batch oil from Sicily that retails for $35 a pint; fig jam; 20-year aged balsamic vinegar; tomato salsa; prosciutto; pretzels and horseradish mustard; and truffle salt. It was an international gourmet orgy right there in the middle of the market, but I wasn't alone if the proliferation of used toothpicks and tiny plastic spoons was any indication of how many other people were as excited as I was about being in the middle of upscale sample mania. Oh, and The Pasta Shop is also a nice place to shop for fine cheeses, delicious sandwiches, beautiful pastries, and, as their name suggests, some great, fresh pastas as well. Too bad there weren't any samples of those.



Posted By:  Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan
Photo:  Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan

I love eating at any place that has "Crispy Potato Puffs" on its menu, which means I love getting takeout at Grégoire. As a bonus, the menu changes monthly according to what is seasonal and fresh. My eyes always jump back and forth between the meat, seafood, fowl, and vegetarian entree sections on the menu. Grilled Coho salmon? Sauteed duck breast? Chicken in puff pastry? Stuffed eggplant? Doesn't really matter as long as I get some of those potato puffs on the side (they're steaming hot, deep fried spheres of mashed potato and can right all wrongs of the day). The main courses are generous restaurant portions of fine dining caliber but without the restaurant prices, so eating gourmet/organic/seasonal actually ends up being an affordable treat. The lunch menu offers a terrific selection of sandwiches, from deep fried oyster po'boys to prosciutto on grilled focaccia, and all are under $8. There's dessert to round it all out, though I'm apt to order another round of potato puffs because they're just that good.




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