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Friday foodie tour in Berkeley

So, I am going to poke around Berkeley with my wife on Friday. We'll get there around 10AM, so we'll be there for lunch and probably dinner, too. I'm trying to put together the foodie agenda and here are some options I've come up with so far… (Keep in mind that we're talking about a Lenten Friday, so I sadly will have to avoid the meat… Berkeley seems like a tasty place to adhere to my Lenten responsibilities)

Cheeseboard for cheese to take home
Vik's for some chaat
Ajanta for nicer Indian
Berkeley Bowl
Pizzaiolo for an early dinner
Chez Panisse Café (or am I just too late to the game to get in?)

What else am I missing for a foodie tour of Berkeley?

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  1. Scharffen Berger Factory Tour?

    https://www.scharffenbergertour.com/i...

    Have not gone myself (yet) but I've heard it's good. You didn't give up chocolate for Lent, did you?

    1. 900 Grayson for breakfast. Great vegetarian options.
      June Taylor's still room is open Fridays from 12:30-4 in West Berkeley. Some of the best jam in the world, period. You must check it out.
      Scharffem Berger Tour is a must. If it's too late to make a res online, show up first thing in the morning and put your name on the list. You will get in.
      Sketch Ice Cream on 4th St. has some of the best desserts in the Bay. 4th St is a fun place to walk around with lots of foodie shops in a small area.
      Cheeseboard cheese - absolutely! Let them know it's your first time, and sample a lot.
      Gregoire for a snack of potato puffs. Just down the street from Cheeseboard.
      You can try to get in to Chez Panisse Cafe, but Pizzaiolo is an excellent backup. I actually prefer the food and ambiance at Pizzaiolo to Chez, and the price point is far more reasonable.
      Not sure about Ajanta and Viks in the same day. I prefer the food at Ajanta, but Viks is fun too.
      Enjoy!

      www.900grayson.com
      www.junetaylorjams.com
      www.gregoirerestaurant.com
      www.sketchicecream.com

      2 Replies
      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        On second thought, I'd pick Vik's over Ajanta for lunch. The food at Vik's is much easier to make a light snack of, so you'll still have room for everything else. Plus, you'll be right down the street from 4th St, June Taylor and Scharffen Berger.

        1. re: Morton the Mousse

          You've got to get a masala dhosa at Vik's - a fabulous crispy rice flour pancake wrapped around spicy potatoes. Get their green sauce to drizzle over.

          June Taylor is a great suggestion. She has some unusual jams and marmalades (grapefruit, lime, etc.)

          Ditto Sea Salt - a delightful restaurant with great food - all seafood.

      2. Wow Morton, major tip about June Taylor's Still Room
        June Taylor Company
        The Still-Room
        2207 4th Street
        Berkeley, CA 94710

        510-548-2236

        If it is Lent, then there's always Sea Salt. Also, while not great for a lot, the hot cross buns at Hopkins Street Bakery. If you've never been to that area, you can drop in to Monterey Market for comparison to Berkeley Bowl.

        Oh, oh, I know, I know ... The Phoenix Pastifico for their great pasta and the exquisite olive bread hot from the oven (usually after 1pm).
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/378242

        If you go to Fourth St where Sketch is located, stop by Teance for tea.

        4 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          I think Sea Salt is pretty Meh ambiance-wise, and the food is not special enough to make it a good pick over everywhere else on this list. If you are willing to try somewhere a bit more pricy, but comparable to 2/3 courses at Chez Pannisse upstairs, Commis in Oakland is great. If you go to Pizzaola, order a gin and tonic - they make their own tonic and it is wildly delicious.

          -----
          Sea Salt
          2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

          Commis
          3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

          1. re: supergoldie

            You are responding to a 2007 post. The OP has long since took hsi food tour.

            In 2007, Commis wasn't even a twinkle in the ownern's eye.

            Since this post was resurrected, I will at least make come comments to my post just for accuracy sake.

            Sketch is long closed

            Hopkins Street Bakery has undergone an ownership changes and the hot cross buns aren't as good.

            If I was talking about Phonix Pacifico, the restaurant, that also has long closed and the pasta operation moved elsewhere. They still sell pasta, sauaces and bread at the 'new' (years old) location and lots of farmers markets.

            While Teance still has great tea, I find their pricing for tasting a bit too pricy these days.

            Even Sea Salt has remodeled since that post, though I still like both the food and ambiance. I can't think of a better seafood restaurant in the East Bay. Not that I don't love Commis, but if I'm looking for seafood, it will be Sea Salt.

            -----
            Sea Salt
            2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

            Hopkins Street Bakery
            1584 Hopkins St, Berkeley, CA

            Teance
            2531B 9th St, Berkeley, CA

            Commis
            3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

            1. re: rworange

              Teance coupon available. good for 1 year rw, plan ahead.
              http://www.groupon.com/deals/teance?u...

              -----
              Teance
              2531B 9th St, Berkeley, CA

          2. re: rworange

            My favorite item at Hopkins Street Bakery is the Anzac cookies. Semi-sweet and coconutty, great soaked in milk or tea, and I've had a couple last for literally a year in the bag without any noticable change. Good with peanut butter, too (what isn't).

            -----
            Hopkins Street Bakery
            1584 Hopkins St, Berkeley, CA

          3. Seconding the Sea Salt recommendation, and if you're an oyster fan, you might want to hit it from 4-6 while they have the $1 oyster happy hour,but they're open every day from 11:30 to 11 (I think, I'm not positive when the closing time is). I love Pizzaiolo, but it's in Oakland, not Berkeley (not that they're that far away, but I didn't want you confused).

            I'd also drop by the Acme bakery (at San Pablo and Cedar) to get some bread to go along with your Cheeseboard cheese. You can get Acme bread in lots of places, but for the tour, it'll be fun to go by the bakery.

            3 Replies
            1. re: JasmineG

              Acme bread fresh from the bakery is the best in the area. Cheese Board's the best cheese shop but its bread is at best second-rate (which means better than you'll find most place in the U.S., but still).

              So stop by Acme and pick some up on your way to Cheese Board (it's a straight shot up Cedar) to ensure you're not tempted to settle.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I guess I'll have to do a back to back of Phoenix with Acme. Yes, Phoenix only has that one bread ... but ... damn ... it is great.

                The caveat is that both times I bought it recently it just came out of the oven ... as in ... hold the bag on the side because it is too hot to handle.

                1. re: rworange

                  Phoenix's olive bread is killer, but isn't a good pair with cheese, since the olive flavor is so strong.

                  Acme pain d'epis is ideal for a cheese picnic since it's easy to tear apart.

            2. I just did a mini-tour on Monday of places I hadn't been yet. I first went to La Farine (and loved it). I then went to check out Masse's. I tried to go to Cheeseboard, but they close very early on Monday, so I was too late. I actually have been there several times anyway. I made a pass through Epicurious Garden--not that I'm saying it's a must-see, but you might as well take a look if you're at Cheeseboard. I then walked around the corner and had the beef patty (don't say burger!) and potato puffs at Gregoire's.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Atomica

                Not only does Cheeseboard close early on Mondays, the cheese counter is closed all day. Tues-Fri are the days to go for cheese.

                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                  Correction: Tues-Sat are cheese counter days.

              2. Well you might want to start on on the light end so what about Cafe Fanny, Bakesale Betty, or La Farine as someone else suggested. I love 900 Grayson but don't think I could handle lunch dinner and breakfast out myself. Have fun.

                1. When I did a foodie tour of Berkeley on a Friday I actually started in Oakland -- at the Old Oakland Farmers' Market. It's morning market that closes down after lunch. Very multi-ethnic, great Oakland vibe.

                  1. If memory serves, Friday is the one day the Cheese Board serves pizza...if it were me, I'd save/make room for that.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: tempehtempeh

                      Cheeseboard serves pizza Tuesday through Saturday at the cafe next door. It's good, depending on the toppings, but nowhere near as tasty as the stuff at Pizzaiolo.

                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        ... which , keep in mind, is matter of opinion!

                        1. re: chemchef

                          Cheese Board
                          pros: tasty, cheap, slices
                          cons: gas deck oven, no choice, no meat, closes at 7pm

                          Pizzaiolo
                          pros: wood pizza oven, choice of toppings, open till 10pm
                          cons: whole pizzas only, relatively expensive, not open for lunch

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Gas oven doesn't have to be a con. I know pizza gospel is that hotter is better but for some reason the crust on wood-fired pizzas rarely tastes right to me. I think you really have to know what you're doing to get it right...

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              I totally agree. My parents recently had a woodburning oven installed and its taken my stepdad quite awhile to master the art of using it. I also agree that hotter is not always better, particularly when it results in a burnt crust. My stepdad has finally learned that the oven is not ready to use until several hours after the wood has been burning and the temperature has come down and leveled out.

                              1. re: a_and_w

                                Sure, but irrelevant in this case, since Charlie Hallowell is a master.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                you forgot another couple of CONS to Pizzaiolo:

                                blasting music
                                if you're seated up front, lack of breathable air
                                poor service

                                other than that, i like the place. good food, but that's about IT.

                                -----
                                Pizzaiolo
                                5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                1. re: lacerise

                                  The music was not blasting when I ate at Pizzaiolo last month, and there were other significant improvements since 2007:

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693495

                                  -----
                                  Pizzaiolo
                                  5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                            2. re: Morton the Mousse

                              Along with Cheese Board, there are two Arizmendi's - one in Emeryville, one on Lakeshore in Oakland. You can go to their websites and look at the pizza calendar and phone in to reserve one, if it's one you like as they often sell out. Bear in mind that while Arizmendi Emeryville (http://www.arizmendi-bakery.org/) takes plastic, Arizmendi on Lakeshore (http://www.arizmendibakery.org/) does not. They all close early on Mondays. I wish they'd change their website addresses to reflect the different locations!

                            1. re: ML8000

                              I cannot find much info on Monterey Market. What makes you add it to this list? They must have some particular thing that you're really fond of...

                              1. re: glutton

                                I occasionally go to Monterey Market looking for specific seasonal produce that Berkeley Bowl either doesn't have or has sold out of (e.g. particular wild mushrooms or Sierra Beauty apples), but I don't think it's worth going to both (especially this time of year), and overall BB is more impressive.

                            2. You're prob. too late to get into CP Cafe for dinner, but maybe not for lunch.

                              1. I would pass on Berkeley Bowl.The place is a overrated dump.
                                It has nothing but a great variety of half rotten produce and over priced meats and seafood.

                                Mix that in with super aggresive panhandlers and you have a bad shopping experiance.

                                20 Replies
                                1. re: Mission

                                  I agree with your produce comment (I only buy mine at local farmer's markets), but ever since I've moved to the Bay Area I've been wondering where to get a good selection of good quality meat, poultry and seafood for a reasonable price. What do you suggest for someone living in Berkeley?

                                  1. re: chemchef

                                    Where in Berkeley do I get...

                                    ...good quality meat?
                                    -Baron's Meats in the back of Star Market on Claremont
                                    -Cafe Rouge Meat Counter on 4th St
                                    -Highland Hills at the Sat Berk Farmers' Market (when available)
                                    -Prather Ranch at the Sat Oakland Farmers' Market
                                    -Fatted Calf at the Sat Berk Farmers' Market

                                    ...poultry?
                                    -Magnani on Hopkins (Hoffman Birds)
                                    -Cafe Rouge Meat Counter on 4th

                                    ...seafood?
                                    -Monterey Fish on Hopkins
                                    -Tokyo Fish on San Pablo
                                    -Hudson Fish at the Tues/Thur Berk Farmers' Market

                                    Plus: Cheeseboard for cheese; June Taylor for jam and tomato paste; Pasta Shop for specialty items; Natural Grocery in El Cerrito and Berkeley for dry goods, RO water, and the occasional piece of produce I forgot to buy at the Farmers' Market; and Andronico's when I'm too lazy to go somewhere else.

                                    I haven't been to the Bezerkeley Hole in years. That store makes me an angry, miserable person: parking, the crowds, the pushing and shoving and cart gridlock. The 45 minute waits when there are no baggers on staff and every single person in front of you is too lazy to bag their own groceries. The prices are low (and they aren't even that low) because they understaff (hence the half hour waits) and don't provide their employees with benefits.

                                    But by all means, check Berkeley Bowl out once. It is an experience.

                                    1. re: coolbean98

                                      According to the staff, Weds afternoon/ evenings and Sat evenings are the least busy times. Sure enough I've been there at these times and it's amazingly not crowded.

                                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                        Berkeley Bowl has good meat including Estancia and some other fancy brands.

                                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                          The first time I went to BB, I vowed never to go back. However, I've since learned when the 'down times' are. I've learned that the best time to go is pretty much any weekday evening. They close at 8, so I usually go around 6 (best are Fridays and Saturdays, although not necessarily convenient for most). There are virtually no lines/crowds to deal with and I find it much more convenient than trekking to 3 or 4 different places for fish, meat, poultry, etc.

                                          1. re: chemchef

                                            After 7pm on Fridays is usually dead quiet.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              I agree, and that's usually when I go, but sometimes I don't want my Friday evening ruined by grocery shopping!

                                          2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                            Hmmm ... June Taylor tomato paste ... will have to give that a try.

                                            There is a reason for the crowds at Berkeley Bowl and it amounts to more than one-stop shopping or price. It is just a great and wonderful store that carries a range that no other store in the Bay Area matches and few in the country rivals.

                                            While it may not be to everone's taste ... no one place is... it certainly doesn't deserve scorn and insults ... I'd still be interested in where Mission shops who originally posted.

                                            Since I frequent all the stores you mention AND the Berkeley Bowl I would say that 70 percent of what is at those stores is at Berkeley Bowl ... and visa versa.

                                            But the deliciousness is in the details ... and that 30 percent.

                                            Item by item I could go down that list and do the cold hard comparisons ... just using honey as an example.

                                            I can get organic honey ... I can get bulk honey ... I can get imported honey at any of the places you mentioned. But no where else can I get 10 types of bulk honey in the same range of colors that Marshall's carries, if not as many ... and they even carry Marshall's honey ... though not all the flavors available at Farmers markets. The gourmet & imported variety is greater than the Pasta Shop or Andronico's .. organically certainly more than El Cerrito Natural Foods.

                                            Yep each of these places will have a few here and there that Berkeley Bowl doesn't carry ... but Berkeley Bowl will carry at least ... at the very least ... a dozen types of honey that none of the above carries.

                                            Yeah ... the carts and people at BB are annoying ... but people at all those other places can be annoying ... the yuppies at many of those places ... the street people at the Berkeley Farmers market ... the organically holier than thou at El Cerrito (and the aggressive pandhandler there who keeps me many times from shopping there) ... though you didn't add this ... and since you are into organics you should ... the working class at Grocery Outlet ... etc

                                            The thing with Berkeley Bowl is that ALL those groups shop or congregate there ... from the street person ... through the working class ... through the priviledged ... from babies & children being towed by parents to retirees ... so ... yup ... the group that annoys you most will be at the Berkeley Bowl.

                                            But there is a darn good reason the Bowl attracts such a diverse crowd ... it is not these groups are interested in rubbing elbows.

                                            I'm not going to address the labor issue. There are worse and there are better in all of the stores ... and social issues are outside of the scope of this board.

                                            Given the diversity of the people and products ... I agree ... the Berkeley Bowl is the worst store in the Bay Area.

                                            Given the diversity of the people and products ... I disagree ... the Berkeley Bowl is the best store in the Bay Area.

                                            There's a reason when people ask for some odd item on the board, the post will always have a suggestion to check out the Berkeley Bowl.

                                            It's a store you often have to put yourself in the right mindset to deal with ... It IS better than the old location where the strategy was to park your cart and bring food back and forth to the cart because the aisles were too full of people to be able to move the cart easly through.

                                            So you go to the Bowl and block out a lot ... or pop a few valium ... or kick back a Mimosa ... and thus prepared ... stop and contemplate the 30 types of rice.

                                            It can be zen ... and they sell zen books and magazines.

                                            Having a zen moment ... or it could be the mimosa ... the Berkeley Bowl is like Chowhound ... there are other and in someways better and less challenging places to get info about food ... food classes, tours, events, other general food & review forums, other specialized forums, food tv, food groups etc etc.

                                            Even the old store/new store analogy is similar ... the new store(site) is better but hasn't eliminated every, uh, challenge.

                                            Given my jovial & convivial posts, this may be a major shock to some ... I don't like everyone and (GASP) everyone doen't like me ... and sometimes I don' t feel like shopping.

                                            But like the Bowl, just the sheer vastness ... of the traffic and information will result in learning things I can't easily learn elsewhere. I exchange food tips with people who probably i would never associate with.

                                            And because of the Bowl's diverse shoppers they will carry products that in my own life circumstances I would never see in the shops I'd be more likely to patronize.

                                            Just like I learn something new every time I sign on to Chowhound everytime I walk into Berkeley Bowl I find something new ... often that I can't find elsewhere.

                                            Recently at the Berkeley Bowl I bought some bat nuts ... then I went home and posted about them on Chowhound ... and people knew what they were and passed along information I didn't find anywhere else on the web.

                                            Like Chowhound, give Berkeley Bowl acknowledgement for its uniqueness and usefullness.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              I totally agree with all of this -- while it's lovely to go to lots of different stores for your chicken and your fish and your produce and your jam, most people don't have time to drive all over the East Bay to do their grocery shopping. Parking at BB is a pain, but I have never even attempted the parking lot. The prices are great there, and the quality is high, and while sometimes I do stop at five different stores for the best X, sometimes I need one place to go that has a high quality of all five, and BB is it. When I don't have the time or patience for the parking and the long lines, I'll go to Whole Foods, which is more convenient and more expensive.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                "the deliciousness is in the details" - exactly! That's why I don't shop at Berkeley Bowl. I can find better produce, meat, seafood, poultry, cheese, nuts and nut butter, bread, eggs, jam, olive oil, dried fruit, and honey by going to specialty shops and farmers' markets. This type of shopping may be more time consuming (though I don't go to every store on my list every week), but I enjoy this type of shopping, and I eat better for it. I also like supporting independent merchants. Food politics are very important to me, and my purchases reflect my ethics.

                                                Pasta Shop, Andronicos and Natural Grocery are more of an afterthought in my shopping - when I need flour, mustard, salt, or an out of season herb. The products I buy at these markets are identical to the products I would buy if I went to Berkeley Bowl.

                                                The products that Berkeley Bowl really excels at are products that I just don't buy or eat at home - like granola, lentils, frozen foods, tropical fruit, and snack foods. I acknowledge that Berkeley Bowl is unique, and I understand why so many people love it. It just isn't the store for me.

                                                BTW, June Taylor's tomato paste is incredible. You wont find a better tomato paste anywhere.

                                                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                  Berkeley Bowl is an independent merchant. The owner goes to the produce market every morning.

                                                2. re: rworange

                                                  The one time I went to the BB I found it depressing. It's out of my way, anyhow. I'm able to walk to the shops on Hopkins, San Pablo and Solano. Latino, Middle Eastern, Asian... the variety is wonderful, the prices usually good, and I don't have to drive. No matter where we shop, we're lucky to have so many options.

                                                3. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                  I'm pretty much in agreement here on where to get what . . . .

                                              2. re: Mission

                                                Wow, I would ask the same thing that chemchef asked. Where DO you shop? Because I can't think of a better place in not only the Bay Area, but much of the country.

                                                No the produce can't compete with the local seasonal produce, but it is top quality for a market, the variety is dizzying and the prices are wonderful.

                                                I haven't been to Monterey Market in a while, but that was my long-ago take on that place... the produce wasn't as good as Berkeley Bowl. However both places have their fans.

                                                Now if you are talking agressive panhandlers I'd be more likely to cite the Saturday Berkeley's Farmer's Market. For me, there is always more there than I usually want to deal with. At BB, at most a 'sorry, no' has always worked for me.

                                                1. re: Mission

                                                  I always take tourists to Berkeley Bowl and they're always amazed. For a one-stop store with everything the quality's high and the prices are reasonable.

                                                  The selection of produce is amazing and it's better than what you find in 99.999% of American supermarkets. Personally I don't buy much produce there as I'm used to the higher quality from buying direct from farmers.

                                                  1. re: Mission

                                                    You have to be kidding about Berkeley Bowl. No it's not as fresh as coming off a farmer's truck at a farmers market but it's there everyday and reasonably priced given the fixed location and overhead. I've never seen the combined variety, overall quality and price for produce anywhere else short of a wholesale packing house which won't allow you to buy 1 lb of anything. I've seen nicer produce but it's always way more expensive and never the variety.

                                                    Just wondering, where do you consider a good place to buy produce and have a good shopping experience?

                                                    1. re: Mission

                                                      I hope you're not going to say that Monterey Market has LESS rotten food. I can't believe you think Berkeley Bowl is a dump - have you been to a Safeway recently? And I totally agree with rworange - the panhandling there is nothing to anyone used to walking through Berkeley or San Francisco or Oakland...

                                                      1. re: coolbean98

                                                        That's not to say that Monterey Market isn't worth going to - I go there almost as much as Berkeley Bowl (just because of distance) and get great deals on local produce - and I would recommend going for a feel of "real" Berkeley, but Berkeley Bowl definitely has more impressive, aethetically-pleasing produce. I have also gotten very good, personal service at the meat and seafood counters.

                                                        1. re: coolbean98

                                                          by "aesthetically-pleasing" you must mean kept in cold storage. i don't buy fruit at berkeley bowl because i want it to have flavor.

                                                      2. re: Mission

                                                        mission a suggestion (offered after 20 years of haunting east bay and east coast produce venues)--- should you come to nyc have a big knapsack or a full u-haul

                                                      3. Wow, I can't believe the Monterey Market and Berkeley Bowl discussion here - both are worth a look-see just for how we shop and eat here, if you have the time. Personally, I don't have much patience for BB, but it is definitely a place to see if your best view of "good shopping" is Hole Phoods. Likewise, MM is a produce store with a handful of non-produce aisles. This is a once to three times a week stop for me. Also, MM is on a street with a neat little cheese shop (worth 3 minutes of your time), a great little pizzeria (Gioia), and a decent poultry shop (Magnani) for a nice little foodie street, even if just to take a peek.

                                                        As far as chocolates go (described somewhere above), I can't say that Scharffenberger is worth it anymore. The tour is somewhat boring, but the smell when you enter is great. The amount of chocolate you get to taste is marginal (albeit I haven't been in awhile). They used to have thin chocolate chip cookies to die for but they have been long gone. Just over the border in Emeryville you can go into the Charles Chocolates retail store where they will gladly sample a small selection of very decent chocolates for you (no factory tour). These are just time-killers during your day as you can't be eating meals all day long here!

                                                        1. To close the loop, I wanted to let you know our stops in Berkeley on Friday…

                                                          We started at the Cheeseboard Collective and had a great time. Jesus was able to read us very well and we walked out with a nice collection of cheeses. I would rank this among the top three or four cheese stores I've visited in the US. We were starving when we showed up and my wife and I split one fo their emmentaller cheese rolls -- it was warm from the ove and fantastic.

                                                          Then we scooted over to the Cheeseboard Pizza place and got the first slice of the day. Crimini mushrooms, pine nuts, baby spinach, and some other toppings. It was a good piece of pizza, not great. I'm a fan of the bonus slice that they throw on top…

                                                          Then we walked around the corner and split an order of Gregoire's potato puffs. They were good, served piping hot. I was not a fan of the dipping sauce -- I would preferred soemthing with a bit more kick to it. But the potato puffs were hot and fresh, so we were happy.

                                                          We did not have time for Vik's Chaat unfortunately (next visit, I guess), so we went directly to June Taylor's still room. That was a great experience. She had some things to sample, but that was hardly the highlight because we already knew how good her products are. The highlight was chatting with June about how she does what she does and seeing her kitchen. There was even more craftsmanship in those preserves than I realized. She's practicing an art that seems to be fading into memory.

                                                          We then toured the Sharffenberger factory. It's not much of a factory tour -- I've been on many, many factory tours over the years -- because there's just not much to see. Just a couple machines that mash, grind, and pulverize the cacao beans and then pretty soon a chocolate bar comes out. The hour is mostly spent listening to a glib tour guide talk about the chocolate-making process. Sure, I learned something, but I would have preferred a few more tastes so that I could taste the difference between some of the varieties he was talking about. This struck me as a tour that Rachel Ray would enjoy, not a foodie.

                                                          We then made a stop at Phoenix Pastificio, where we scored the last loaf of olive bread -- it was wonderful. And we got some pasta. That was a real find…

                                                          Last, we stopped at the Berkeley Bowl so that I could see all this controversy for myself. It's a nice grocery store, in the broad landscapes of grocery stores, but it operates so poorly that I had trouble looking past that. Great merchandising, but piss-poor operations.

                                                          Thanks to all for the recommendations… it was a great day and a great way to see Berkeley.

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: glutton

                                                            What did you find poor about Berkeley Bowl's operations? It's my neighborhood grocery store so I shop there all the time. I don't see anything unusual about the way the place is run.

                                                            Sometimes there are so many shoppers with such heaping carts that even with all the checkout stands open there are long lines. To address that, the owner's planning to build a second store. He already reconfigured the checkout area to add more cashiers.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              This is exactly what I saw -- a store that was unprepared to handle the demands. I did not stand there long enough to observe the congested checkout operation (I put my stuff down and walked away), but at a glance I saw a lousy setup that was understaffed and did not have supplies in convenient places for employees to do the work. Adding a second store is great, but it will take a long time, so there must be something the owner can do in the interim. I don't know exactly what it is, but there is surely something that can be done if he cares enough about convenience.

                                                              1. re: glutton

                                                                I don't think BB is understaffed, I think it's just at certain times more popular than a store that size can handle. What can he do, have a bouncer at the door like a nightclub to keep people from coming in?

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  Putting baggers at every checkout stand would be a good start.

                                                                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                    THANK YOU! That would be a GREAT start, IMHO.

                                                          2. Don't miss Crixa Cakes when making "foodie" trip to Berkeley!