HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


The BEST non alcoholic drinks and juices in the Bay Area?

I’m not talking cocktails but juices, milk, and such.

What places have wonderful drinks that are so good that you would go to the restaurant even if there was not another good thing on the menu?

Here’s my list in no particular order:

* note to anyone who read this post earlier. I edited it to put this brief list up front.

Bittersweet – Chocolate milk
Bombay Cuisine - badum-pista-nu-dudh.
Creations desserts – Mango Sago with coconut cream
Dara Thai Lao Cuisine – fresh fruit juices
Sabor Brazil – Fresh Brazilian fruit juices
Woodhouse Fish Company – lemonade
The French Hotel – orange juice.
Maggie’s – Sweet Tea
Pho 89 – Jackfruit/tapioca shake
Guerilla Café – Africano coffee
Montelimar Restaurant – Pitahaya
Los Guanacos – Chan


Absolutely the best chocolate milk I’ve ever had. They use freshly shaved chocolate and there are little bits in the bottom of the glass that melt on the tongue.


The all time great drink here is the badum-pista-nu-dudh. It is milk with ground up pistachios and almonds that is spiced with cardamom and saffron. Very delicious and the ground up nuts in it give it a pleasant texture.


It was like drinking a snow-filled cloud with fresh mango. Sago is tiny balls similar to the tapioca balls in bubble tea. However, it is an elegant, refined relative - tiny, silky and wonderful. The drink has three layers, white sago (similar in texture to the tapioca in puddings), fresh mango juice (they make it to order), and coconut cream which is almost like whipped cream. There are a few pieces of fresh mango on top.


Think of a slushy/icee using perfectly ripe fresh tropical fruit, sherbet-like, but liquid enough to drink. Each is topped with a slice of fresh fruit

The mango and the pineapple were as good as it gets. There is also fresh papaya, watermelon and cantaloupe. They only buy the most perfect fruit at its ripest, so the selection may be limited. One day they only had 5 servings of watermelon. Regulars know to shush out the good stuff early.This is not Jamba Juice’s sad frozen papaya etc, but lush fresh fruit.


They have exotic FRESH-SQUEEZED (so to speak) juices like acai, acerola, white Brazilian pineapple (abacaxi), caja, cacau (the white pulp of cocoa pods), caju, capuacu, graviola, and siriguela. Not to mention the more mundane guava, passion fruit, mango, melon, papaya, grape and OJ.

I qualify ‘fresh-squeezed’ as meaning they start with the actual fruit. Sometimes that fruit is frozen, but not like the sad frost-bitten chunks at Jamba Juice. The whole frozen fruit is the starting point. If the fresh fruit is available they start with fresh fruit. Squeezed might mean it is pulverized in the blender. Delicious stuff.


Although this is almost identical to Sea Salt’s deconstructed lemonade where juice, simple syrup and ice are in separate pitchers and the drink is mixed by you to your preference, for some reason Woodhouse does it better. I crave the lemonade at Woodhouse while it is unlikely I’d order it again at Sea Salt.


Don’t know why, but they always have the sweetest OJ. I think they use Florida oranges.


The owner’s from Georgia. Enuf said.


It tasted like real pureed jackfruit was the base. The tapioca balls were excellent too.


If you can’t decide between a latte, cappuccino or espresso. There’s the espresso shout, a hint of milk and a whisper of foam on top. It is made with Blue Bottle coffee.


This is dragon fruit juice which is a jewel-colored fuchsia and tastes like a mild lemonade with tiny pulpy seeds (about the size of kiwi seeds, but fleshier).


Same as Pitahay, but the drink is better at Montelimar. This one was sweeter and more cherry colored.


Kbac Kvas is a dark brown molasses colored soda from Russia. It in fact does have molasses in it as well as coffee powder, chicory root extract, St. John’s bread extract, prune juice, carbonated water and the usual sweeteners and preservatives. I would say it is an acquired taste, a VERY acquired taste and I can see why the owner hesitated before selling it to me. This was my first intro to Kvas which can be lovely like an apple cider. I’m glad it didn’t discourage me from trying the delicous versions at Cinderella Bakery and Gastronome in SF. AVOID THE BOTTLED STUFF.

I like trying new and different drinks in addition to top-notch versions of my standards. While searching for my old posts, I was taking a trip down memory lane. Thought it might be nice to put all the great drinks in one post since people might not want to read a post about Laotian food even if it is located in the gourmet ghetto of Berkeley.

These are my favorite drinks so far. I’m hoping hounds will clue me in on more delicious drinks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I like the lemonade at Holy Land in Oakland. The little bits of lemon rind give it a nice texture.

    I'm a fan of the chocolate thai iced tea at Bittersweet. The green tea goes surprisingly well with the chocolate.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Lillian Hsu

      Is that the drink where they drizzle white chocolate, I think, on the sides of the glass? It is either the Chocolate Thai iced tea that I like or the Choolate Chai. I THINK it was the iced tea if that had the drizzle.

      Thanks for the rec on Holy Land. Robert seems to always mention it favorably and I keep meaning to try it. I'd probably try Holy Land on Solano because it is nearer to me.

      1. re: rworange

        They definitely drizzle something white on the sides of the glass, but I always assumed it was sweetened condensed milk. I'll have to ask next time I stop in. Either way, it's delicious and refreshing on a hot day.

    2. The lemonade I've had at Holy Land had something like chia seeds in it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I've always thought it was bits of mint. Whatever it is, it's delicious lemonade. (This is at the Holy Land off of Lakeshore in Oakland, yes? I think there is also one near College and Ashby in Berkeley)

      2. As I mentioned in another thread recently, I love the Navarro grape juices at Chez Panisse (and a few other bay area restaurants also!)

        3 Replies
        1. re: susancinsf

          Yes! I love the Navarro Gewurtzraminer white grape juice. You can order it direct from Navarro for a pretty good price.

          1. re: Lillian Hsu

            I recently tasted a 10-year-old bottle of Navarro gewurtztraminer juice. Delicious, it had developed some of the flavors of old German wine.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I love the pinot noir's flavor, though the gequrtztraminer has a superior aroma. The Hidden Vine serves both, though the menu doesn't say which so you have to ask.

        2. Coconut Juice at Siam Thai Restaurant on De Anza off 85 is really good.

          1. I have a weakness for "soda chanh" at Viet restaurants. It's usually translated to "lemon soda" or "lemonade soda", but it's actually made w/ lime juice. I don't believe any lemon is added. It's usually just fresh-squeezed lime juice, sugar, sparkling water or club soda, and ice. Sometimes fresh lime slices are added.

            The best I've ever had is at Vung Tau in San Jose. Very clean, refreshing, and balanced w/ fine bubbles. The Newark branch is the closest one near you, but you should give it a try the next time you're at a Viet establishment.

            BTW, Vung Tau's coffee w/ condensed milk over ice (ca phe sua da) rocks!

            1. For chocolate lovers, I'd add:
              * the iced Mayan chocolate drink at Moonstruck in Walnut Creek (edited to add: definitely better than the other thing I tried, the iced "regular hot chocolate")
              * any of the hot chocolate drinks at Zemocha on Shattuck just north of University in Berkeley (edited to add: it's never crowded there but the owner claims he's getting quite a bit of "word of mouth" business...)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Agent 510

                I've heard that for all of Moonstruck's weaknesses in terms of candy that its drinks were good. Have you tried anything else?

                How is Zemocha doing these days? I went when the opened and wasn't too impressed. I hope they have settled in, but it would take ALOT for me to go back since it isn't my neighborhood.

              2. Not a restaurant beverage but the Gavioli Blood Orange Sparkling Fruit Juice (Italian) is quite nice. Found at Berkeley Bowl, Andronico's, TJ, etc.... This particular flavor is my favorite in the Gavioli line ... it has a beautiful eye appeal and a very nice acid balance - not too sweet. Trader Joes now has an Italian blood orange Sparkling Juice drink - also from Italy - just bought some but haven't opened it yet. It doesn't have the nice deep red color of the Gavioli.

                2 Replies
                1. re: gordon wing

                  I love Gavoli Blood Orange too and wasn't impressed with the other flavors. Colusa in Kenssington had some interesting sparkling fruit juice that looked similar which I want to try.

                  For some reason I've never liked those bottled French lemonades ... Village lemonade? They look pretty but don't have much flavor.

                  1. re: rworange

                    I'm with you on those French lemonade (Village Lemonade) - not that interesting. I opened the Villa Italia Blood Orange soda (from TJ) it was OK but sweeter than the Gavioli - taste less like blood oranges. Half the price but ..... maybe I"ll steer clear of Villa/Village for awhile :~)

                2. I'll second both the lemonade at Holy Land and Navarro grape juice. I also love the hot chocolate at Sketch, the smoothies at Cafe Gratitude (best thing on the menu), the mango lassi at Ajanta and the nojito at coco500.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                    Do you have a favorite smoothie flavor at Cafe Gratitude?

                    Fonda also has a virgin mojito which, IMO, beats the alcoholic version. They have a ginger virgin mojito too, but IIRC, I liked the plain better.

                    Hmmm, I haven't been in a while. I notice they have yucca fries on the late nite menu. Will have to drop by. There's also buñuelos.

                  2. I'm a big fan of the lemon-mint spritzer at Bay Wolf.
                    I love lemon based beverages.

                    Oh! And the do-it-yourself lemonade at Ti Couz in the Mission, if they still have it. Man-o-man, that stuff is good. I feel like a scientist mixing the sugar syrup, the water and the lemon to my own specifications. Best....lemonade...EVER!!!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: MollyGee

                      You need to visit France! Order a limon pressé, and that's what you get: fresh-squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, and water.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        I would go back to France just for the lemonade!

                        And- you reminded me- the lemonade at Ti Couz is called a citron presse.

                    2. 1. virgin mojito at foriegn cinema in the mission
                      2. Red, yellow, and green spritzer from Guerilla Cafe on Shattuck
                      3. Coconut juice straight out of a coconut from Vik's in Berkeley
                      4. I really like the Hibiscus jasmine cooler from Peet's
                      5. Coconut boba tea from place on Piedmont Ave. in Oakland across from the movie theater

                      I used to love the fresh ginger ale from Ginger Island on 4th street in Berkeley, but now that it's changed to Ecolo I havn't been able to find it. Anyone know of a restuarant that makes a good version?

                      1. I really like that spritzer at Guerilla too - with Crystal Geyser sparkling water, a shot of lingonberry juice, lemon, lime and fresh mint. The African colors.

                        It's not in the East Bay, but high on my list is the fresh ginger ale at Canteen that everyone has been raving about. I actually want that more than the food.

                        Do not, NOT, order the fresh ginger ale at Elite Cafe. The caveat is that I tried it just after it opened, but is was so badly made that I'd be unlikely to give it another try unless I read A LOT of positive reports.

                        1. I really like the tamarind and hibiscus drinks at Bissap. You can have them virgin or with some liquor. Fresh stuff, interesting flavors.

                          1. For boba, the Tapioca Express in Cupertino is different from the others. They use fresh juices in their bubble drinks. Grapefruit good.