Elmwood vs. the rest - Rockridge, Berkeley downtown, the newly alive Temescal...
For me, Elmwood is the closest commercial strip. I like it fine.
However, I don't eat here often. The restaurants are charming, but I don't find much value. Not cheap enough, not excellent enough.
There is that corner space waiting to be leased, Ashby and College. Someone told me it's waiting for a cobbler or a record store. Big enough for a restaurant?
Just felt like ranting. Any thoughts?
While we are at it, best picks in Elmwood?
My hubby works at Alta Bates and we've wondered for years why Elmwood doesn't have a quality dining scene. I can't believe the donut place has survived (there since I was a kid in the early 70's), and why the bike shop on the corner remains vacant for years on end. Are rents that bad?
Rockridge is too trendy (read expensive) these days. I'm proud to live off the Piedmont Avenue strip, which offers diverse choices from Dopo to Jojo and everything in between, at reasonable prices (with the exception of the way overrated Bay Wolf). I miss Chef Paul's. :-(
To address Temescal, we went down there a couple of weeks ago and are dying to try the new Italian place. Alas, it's only open for dinner and we were in the area for a late lunch. I do not recall the name of the cafe (around 49th and Telegraph), but my roast beef, pesto aioli, roasted red pepper and greens (don't remember) sandwich, with fruit salad side, was lunch perfection.
I'm another Elmwood resident frustrated by the lack of good food in the area. People in Berkeley seem to think that this area is rife with good restaurants, but it's really not (we're not lacking for cafes, though). The worst two places in the area are House of Curries and La Med. I always want to like La Med because of the nice front patio with heat lamps, but there's just nothing good to eat there. House of Curries served the worst meal I think I've ever ordered in town. Overcooked chicken in the curries, stale naan, etc. I'm always amazed when I see people eating in there. I've been to Trattoria La Siciliana only once -- it was just OK, and not enough to tempt me to return. AG Ferrari's is overpriced and sometimes the bread doesn't taste fresh enough.
I'm not a fan of Nabolom Bakery, either, and I have really given them a try because I want to like this place. Their danishes, cinnamon rolls, etc. are cloyingly sweet and never seem to be fresh-tasting. The staff always seem to over-promise on how good the things are too. The only thing I'll order there now is the chocolate chip cookie -- it can be pretty good, but depends on the day and time that you go. All in all, it's worth walking another 10 minutes to go to La Farine.
Dream Fluff is an OK donut place... I go there now and then to treat my donut-loving husband to some glazed oldfashioneds. The owners are nice and have pictures of the Angkor temples all over the place. I've never been there right when the donuts are fresh out of the fryer, which of course is the key to any good donut.
So, where do I actually go? For a quick dinner I'll get a burrito at La Cascada -- good salsa, good guac. I also go to Shen Hua for their potstickers, dry-fried string beans, noodle dishes... there's one with salmon and wide noodles that's very tasty. The aforementioned Andy's chicken is indeed the best chicken dish on the menu -- avoid the fried ones. Yes, it's Americanized, but Shen Hua's one of the best places in town to go with a baby, by the way! VERY noisy and the staff are used to dealing with kids.
As for Ici, I'd been really excited about it when it opened, but still haven't been wowed by any of the flavors. If we want ice cream we will usually walk to either the Naia gelateria (on UCB campus), or Lulu's belgian chocolate shop further down College (they have a really amazing dark chocolate gelato) or for a trip back to the 1980s, Yogurt Park (the best peanut butter fro-yo ever).
Finally, I hear great things about the aforementioned Flavors of India (around Alcatraz & College, so outside Elmwood). An Indian friend who's picky about food says it's great and reasonably-priced.
In reply to grocerytrekker ... posted in the wrong place ...
I've always wondered about Dream Fluff donuts.
I like Far Leaves Tea, but the most they do is specialty cookies that incorporate tea. I'd go there more but parking is a bear. I am a HUGE fan of their blood orange tea. Really pleasant little retreat in that area.
I really haven't found a difference in the A.G Ferrari's that I've tried. The one in this area is as good as any place.
I haven't read anything aboit Ici that would make me want to go back.
Dream Fluff is less visible since it's on Ashby. I always forget it's there. (Not very inviting, either.) ONE OF THESE DAYS I shall try their donuts and take a seat there, and not at Roma or Beanery. I've always wanted to try Far Leaves, don't know why I haven't yet. A.G. Ferrari is all right, but I find the cheese prices (and other items) a little high. I had pine nut ice cream the other day at Ici, which was good.
re: Gary Soup
More of curiosity than support. If you remember there were MONTHS of posts asking if ICI was here yet. It finally got to me. Funny how one place gets attention and another doesn't seem to get on the radar. There was so much buzz about ICI and yet Bi-Rite Creamery doesn't seem to catch as much attention ... maybe because they opened in a cold month. Still have to get over to Bi-Rite. Hell would freeze over before I waste another penny on ICI ... or I'd have to hear ALOT of positive stuff ... ALOT ... and still ...
A list of restaurants and markets in Elmwood (needs to be updated)
Naan "N" Curry
Dream Fluff Donuts
Ozzie's Soda Fountain
Ici Ice Cream
2948 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
2930 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
Holy Land Restaurant
2965 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
King Yen Restaurant
2995 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
2975 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
2989 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
2936 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
Locanda Olmo (CLOSED)
2985 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
2977 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
House of Curries
2984 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
2914 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
Trattoria La Siciliana
2993 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
A G Ferrari
2905 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
Dream Fluff Donuts
2637 Ashby Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
Ozzie's Soda Fountain CLOSED
2900 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
2925 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
2921 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
Far Leaves Tea
2979 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
2960 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
Derby Food Center
2707 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
2708 Russell St, Berkeley, CA 94705
I love Trattoria Siciliana, but I hate the wait. That's how we found a comparable Italian restaurant at Ashby and College - just a few doors away. Locanda Olmo doesn't have the polish of Trattoria Siciliana, but it feels so Italian. The food is Florentine. The soups are a meal in themselves. For the entree I had the lamb which had been braised and thought it outstanding. My dining companions went for chicken dishes and were happy. The memorable part of the meal were the soups, perfect for the cold weather we're experiencing. Try to avoid sitting upstairs and see if you can't engage the owner in some conversation. It's a treat. http://locanda-olmo.com/
I like Holy Land. Can't understand how the awful La Mediterranee stays in business.
I like House of Curries. Cheap Pakistani fast food a la Shalimar / Naan 'n' Curry.
The food at Shen Hua is high quality but very Americanized.
There's a cap on food service / restaurants in the Elmwood so that empty corner space can't be converted to one.
re: Robert Lauriston
It is not in the Elmwood, but I finally made it to Flavors of India. YUM. A great addition to the neighborhood. Small, warm and inviting with gracious service, good prices and really good food. We started with the mixed vegetable pakora. The coating was not at all greasy, nicely spiced and the vegetables themselves had not been pre cooked to mush. The Madras Chicken was truly excellent. The spices were bright and fresh, the sauce was rich with coconut milk and what I think were cashews or almonds. Spicy, silky sauce and tender chicken that still had texture and moisture of its own. The fish curry was also very good. A darker deeper curry with more spice to it and not as silky. No coconut milk. The large pieces of fish totally held their own in the sauce. The fish had the texture and flavor of sturgeon. Very firm and assertive. My friend did not care for it.
Rice was good. Bread was very fresh and tasty. All items are a la carte. The owner told us that all meals are cooked to order and can be spiced according to your personal preference. We asked for and got spicy food. The spices were well balanced and did not overpower the meal.
Dinner for two: One app, 1 large Taj Mahal Beer, 1 glass of wine, 2 curries, rice and naan
came to $40. Good value for such good food. Can't wait to go back and try more of the menu.
The only excellent place is Ici, the ice cream shop. And something I heard there is indicative why the Elmwood is so mediocre. They were refused permission to put tables in the shop to sit at while you eat your ice cream because according to the Berkeley Planning Department the Elmwood has too many (or the limit) of "sit down eateries." Take out is apparently ok still. So the neighborhood doesn't have a chance of something excellent coming in unless one of the mediocre places sells out.
This is deeply frustrating to me.
For what it is worth I wish to extend my fervent wish that BiRite market from San Francisco would please buy out the Derby market and create a BiRite here. I wonder if that could catalyze a shift?
re: Ruth Lafler
Can I rest my case? No excellent restaurants on the entire Elmwood strip? It's very sad indeed.
Ah, Telegraph. You have to count on that street for something exciting to happen. The only Ethiopian I had (can't remember the name) was in Washington, D.C. and it was all right, not rave-worthy. Mom didn't like it, and it probably influenced how I felt. I will give this place a shot.
The chowhound reviews are mixed. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36734?query=trattoria+siciliana&user_name=
I also really enjoy Trattoria La Siciliana. But, I only go when I have three hours to dedicate to the meal - the wait for a table and food can be long (and I think that has lead to many of the negative reports). Its great Sicilian for Berkeley, and I like how you order family style.