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Teach Me Something New About Berkeley/Albany -- Anything

I'm fixed for pizza--Nizza La Bella, Gioia, Cheeseboard, and Pie in the Sky--but that's about it.

Otherwise, my ignorance is vast. I'd especially like to know about pho, Thai noodles, Indian chicken and lamb curries, Mexican-American.

But really those are just examples. Anything you really like a lot is great.


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  1. Best Thai food in Berkeley is at Wat Mongkolratanaram, the Buddhist temple, 9-2 on Sundays.

    Indian: Vik's, Udupi Palace, Indus Village

    Mexican: go to Oakland

    17 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I love both Vik's and Udupi Palace and they fill my vegi Indian niche quite nicely. I've been wondering about Indus Village for a while, so I'll check it out.

      Thanks for the tip on the Buddhist temple as well.


      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I've been wanting to try the Buddhist Temple on Sundays. Tell me a little more about it please.

        1. re: SamuelA.L.

          My favorites there are the papaya salad, the pad thai, and the coconut-chive dumplings for dessert.

          1. re: SamuelA.L.

            It helps to bring friends. If you don't, you'll have to stand in one line after another. I like the papaya salad and chicken with sticky rice.

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            I recommend Plearn, on University (near Ryowa).
            For Indian, still have a soft spot for Naan n' Curry Telegraph.
            Pho Hoa on Shattuck is good.
            Haven't had good Mexican in Berkeley yet.

            And, since we've been talking abt Chinese, no one mentioned Shanghai Restaurant on Durant & Telegraph. 3 for $15! Can you beat that? I recommend the pork spareribs, lion's head meatballs, pea sprouts, and the EGGPLANT with pork. Oh, and of course the xiaolongbao (altho they can be off sometimes).

              1. re: Gerard

                One of the first Thai places to open in Berkeley. It's been at 2050 University between Milvia and Shattuck for years.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I'm curious, is that also the same one as in Walnut Creek?

                2. re: Gerard

                  I think I was one of Plearn's best customers while I lived in Berkeley. I somehow got an invitation to the grand opening of their current location, a buffet, and still remember one unique dessert (not on the menu). One thing you find about their cooking: they are little heavier on the sugar than other places. I believe the owner is from Hat Yai, in Songkhla province, which is not far from Malaysia (but, fortunately, mostly spared the current violence in the three Southernmost provinces). As far as I can tell, though, the menu does not especially feature Southern Thailand specialties (no gaeng som, no kua kling).

                3. re: diluxe

                  Plearn? It's still there? It used to be my favorite Thai restaurant. Their stuffed chicken wings were fabulous. I heard that they'd gone way downhill and haven't been there in probably 5 years.

                  1. re: diluxe

                    The Berkeley Shanghai closed. Oakland branch still good.

                    1. re: diluxe

                      Plearn has great Tom Ka Gai. I cant find anyplace which makes it better.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      When I went to the Buddhist Temple I found the food extremely mediocre. The soup tasted overwhelmingly of five spice. Everything was bland and lukewarm. The food was overpriced too. It is touted as a donation kind of meal but then there are prices on it. What gives???

                      1. re: finchycocoa

                        It's a fundraiser for the church.

                        The papaya salad's $3, cheaper than any of the Thai restaurants I know and better than any in the East Bay. I don't know anyplace else to get those coconut-chive dumplings, which come hot off the cooker at $3 for a dozen (sometimes more) are a bargain.

                        1. re: finchycocoa

                          Yes, most of the food there is mediocre, as it is donated by the samem restaurants that we love to pan here. The trick is to find the things like the papaya salad that are still made by the loving hands of the volunteers. Otherwise, you might as well eat anywhere on University Ave. where at least the food will be hot. At the other two Thai temples, the volunteers still do nearly all, if not all, the cooking and the overall quality is better.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            I never knew that. All the stuff I like, I see them make it on the spot.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              The stuff you like (me too) --- mango rice, papaya salad, fried chicken, kanom krok --- those are made on site. Most of the steam table stuff is not. As the meal at the Berkeley temple became well-known, it was just impossible for the church ladies to do all the cooking themselves. The price of success.

                              That's why I prefer San Bruno's temple. Yes, it's smaller and has less selection on nonfeast days, but it is much more consistent and the food has the personal touch. What's there is really good. The fried chicken is very consistent, whereas I've had some overly dry birds in berkeley. In San Bruno the green papaya is cut by hand with a knife, the old-fashioned way. And, now that it has kanom krok too, I have no reason to go to Berkeley's temple.

                      2. Not sure how much of this is "new" but these are some of my regular spots:

                        Indian lamb and chicken curries - Ajanta on Solano
                        Japanese noodles - O Chame on 4th St.
                        Thai satay and spring rolls - Andy & Cindy's @ the Tuesday & Saturday Farmers' Market
                        Casual French, great lunch - Gregoire on Shattuck
                        Breakfast/Brunch - 900 Grayson
                        Mexican American (if you don't want to go to Oakland) - Picante on 6th

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          Tried 900 Grayson on your rec. Thanks. The "Demon Lover"--spicy chicken paillard and waffle with white gravy--was very good.


                          1. re: Gerard

                            where is 900 greyson? and what kind of food is it?

                              1. re: fatz

                                Good for breakfast. Haven't tried anything else.


                                1. re: fatz

                                  Cal-Cuisine greasy spoon. Big portions of well executed comfort food featuring excellent ingredients. Open for breakfast brunch and lunch.

                            1. For noodles, try Ryowa Ramen. Order the Ryowa ramen with special noodles. (Special noodles are no longer listed on the menu but they still have them.)

                              Picante is bland. If you must go, try the papas y chorizo. But really for Mexican food you want to head south to Fruitvale or north to Richmond.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                I liked Ryowa. I should go back.

                                After spinning the little wheel in my head, I've finally settled on not liking Picante. One exception is the soup, which is decent.


                                1. re: Gerard

                                  Yah, the soup is one of the better things, if not the best.

                              2. I've compiled a list: Kirala, on Shattuck for Sushi.
                                Picante, on Sixth for just simple fresh mexican like tacos. I agree they're tacos are only OK, but he said he wanted places in Berkeley/Albany. But my view is if you want real good mexican go to the Mission or Fruitvale. But go to Fruitvale in the early evening for obvious reasons.
                                China Village on Solano for szechuan chinese food.
                                And Dara for lao cuisine( Very similar to Thai). Dara is right next to Cha-am on Shattuck.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: SamuelA.L.

                                  China Vilage is great. Try:

                                  Szechwan home style chicken
                                  West Style Spicy Fish
                                  dry-cooked bamboo shoots

                                  Kirala's fine but lots of other places do sushi as well or better without the long wait in line.

                                  1. re: SamuelA.L.

                                    I like China Village a lot.

                                    Dara shoots to the top of my list. Thanks.


                                    1. re: Gerard

                                      next time you go to china village get the lamb (i forgot what it was called exactly but its spicy and sliced) with the sesame flat bread. why the combination is as wonderful as it is i have no idea, but they are divine together!

                                      1. re: fatz

                                        The Village Specialty Lamb is the only lamb on the menu beside Mongolian Lamb which wouldn't be what you ordered. I heard the lamb was a little dry, but I'll try it.

                                  2. I'm not sure if Mexican in Berkeley is completely hopeless. I've generally enjoyed tacos (especially the prawn and fish tacos) and burritos at Cancun, most of the salsas in the elaborate salsa bar need a little salt on some days, but not always, if you taste and then add a little yourself they can be really great. Juan's down on 6th is also good for giant plates of sit down mexican food, I haven't been in a while but I remember liking the enchiladas. Long wait usually, but lots of fun. With your request phrased as Mexican-American I think either of these would fit the bill nicely, the former being in the Californian/Low Grease/Lots of interesting salsa's slant, and the latter being in the more heavy Mexican-American vein.

                                    For non-sunday-morning thai food I've always liked Cha Am on Shattuck, particularly the Cha Am Noodles which are nice and spicy with ground chicken, green beans, and basil.

                                    Rick and Ann's over near Clairmont is also amazing for breakfast. Red flannel hash was particularly good as I remember.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: China

                                      Cancun can be decent, especially if you're looking for a healthier burrito option, i.e., the grilled chicken. Not the Holy Grail, though.


                                      1. re: China

                                        > Juan's down on 6th is also good for giant plates of sit down mexican
                                        > food, I haven't been in a while but I remember liking the enchiladas.

                                        I may not have been since the 1980s (!!), but back then I loved the flautas. It's actually closer to 8th Street.

                                        1. re: Jefferson

                                          Juan's is on the corner of 9th and Carlson. It's exactly the same as when I started eating there in 1983 (except for the prices!).

                                        2. re: China

                                          I thought Juan's Place was bad, the kind of Mexcian-American food I'd expect in, say, Nebraska. Would not go back.

                                          Same goes for Celia's.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Yeah, I did not like Juan's. Mario's La Fiesta is better if you like those huge plates. I thought Cactus was pretty good. But the best Mexican (tacos, I mean) I have had are at September 16th on Internat'l Blvd in Fruitvale (stop by the market a few blocks away for tamarind on a stick, dipped in your choice of sugar or chili powder...MMM). The closest thing in Berkeley is probably the taco truck on Bancroft & Telegraph. Not the best, but pretty good. My favorite is carnitas.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              oh oh... mexican from juans would've been a BLESSING when I drove across country through nebraska (or was it south dakota?) ;)

                                            2. re: China

                                              Rick and Ann's Red Flannel Hash YUM! I miss that place.