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Cheap between-class places to eat near UC Berkeley?

My girlfriend just started attending Cal, and wants to make the most of her food options, but while there are tons of places nearby, she has no idea what's actually any good. She takes BART to school, so if any hounds could make any reccomendations within walking distance that I could pass on to her, I'd really appreciate it. She does not like Indian (at least she thinks she doesn't, I'm still working on that...), but would be cool with pretty much any other cuisine. I got her liking banh mi over the summer, so if there's a place that has those, that would be awesome. But anything else that's cheap (i.e. no more than $10, but ideally around $5) is great, too!

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  1. Cheese 'n Stuff in the Sather Gate parking structure which you can enter from Durant (@Telegraph) has really great made to order sandwiches which are about $3. Another plethora of cheap options is at the Durant Small Taipei food court which is on the other side of Durant and Telegraph (next to the post office there), they have Chinese, Italian, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese and more. Across from the food court, there is Top Dog which is always good with La Burrita next door which has cheap Mexican. Of course there are tons of other options, but these are the first that come to mind since most students hang out on the south side of campus. Hope this helps!!

    1 Reply
    1. re: liujenny

      On the northside, that whole shacky stripmall lookin' thing with the Top Dog in it is supertasty. I love the Korean BBQ place there, though it frankly would never withstand a health inspection. Nefeli coffee also has sandwiches and salads if she's into that and doesn't, god forbid, want more Thai food. Also the best coffee on that side of campus (near Soda Hall). But for cheapass breakfast, the tiny little place on the right in that same food court (can't remember the name) is not to be beat. I think it's $3 for eggs and toast plus a side.

      1. Healthy Heavenly Foods in the Bear's Lair food court sells bahn mi, I think for $2.50. They do a wide range of Asianish food including rice plates and summer rolls. Not much is made to order but they're probably the best eat on campus property.

        For $7 or less, there's Pie in the Sky (NY pizza) and Brazil Cafe (tri-tip sandwich) downtown, Sunrise Deli and Espresso Experience (bulgogi sandwich) on southside, Hummingbird Cafe (Middle Eastern plate) on northside, Top Dog everywhere. Many more good places on University Ave if one's willing to walk a little further and pay a little more.

        1. On the walk west to BART, she can hit Bongo Burger for good cheap falafel, grilled eggplant sandwich, or Persian (lamb) Burger w/ sumac. Breakfast prices are very low too. Here's the Bongo Burger menu: http://bongoburger.com/menus.htm

          There's also a branch of Top Dog next to the Bongo Burger.

          There are also branches of both of the above on South Side, closer to campus.

          On the same route she can try the new Filipino place, Kawayan. The Adobo is tasty.

          Top Dog
          2534 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

          Bongo Burger
          2154 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

          Top Dog
          2160 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

          Bongo Burger
          2505 Dwight Way, Berkeley, CA 94704

          10 Replies
          1. re: lexdevil

            I also strongly second Bongo Burger and swear by their shish kabab sandwich. Others - Cheese 'n Stuff, Smart Alec's (healthy, I like their basil chicken sandwich), and the Thai place at the back of the Durant food court (try the #45a w/ lots of sriacha - yum).

            On the way up from BART, if she wants to take a slight detour to the left, two blocks down on Shattuck at Addison, there's Saigon Express. They are not the best banh mi or pho, but the place is clean, quick, and the people are nice. Another block down and to the right is the Brazil Café which has very good tritip sandwiches and plates.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I walked by there this morning, they're open.

                1. re: adrienne156

                  I must have been confusing them with another place.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Maybe the place on Center that Pie in the Sky replaced?

                    Oh, and one more place on University - Crepes A Go Go.

                    1. re: adrienne156

                      There's a big space with windows papered up and for-lease signs. Used to be Sun Hong Kong and whatever was next door.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Oh well. I've only been to Bongo on that little strip of Center... Anything else worth eating there?

                        1. re: adrienne156

                          Apart from Pie in the Sky, the only place I go to on Center is C U Sushi. Good for the price (I especially like the scallop nigiri on the permanently half-price menu), though probably over $10 if you're a big eater.

                          C U Japanese Fusion
                          2152 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                        2. re: Robert Lauriston

                          The space that is on Center that is papered has a posted liquor license transfer to Tomatina. They should open in November, I think.

              2. re: lexdevil

                Bongo Burger is cheap, but not as cheap as their website indicates. Full falafel sandwich is 4.75, not 3.50, a falafel ball is .75, not .50. (I'm annoyed because I tried going by on Sunday and they were closed, then I went back with not quite enough money. Grrrr.)

              3. Wow, I remember the Dwight Way Bongo Burger from the early 70's. Awesome that it has stayed in business this long. They made an excellent cheeseburger as I recall.

                1. I really like the salads and pizza by the slice at Bobby G's (I prefer it to the other slice options in the area). It's on University immediately West of Shattuck, so it may or may not be a detour, depending on where her classes are located. Great ice cream too.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                    I've gone to Bobby G's several times intending to try a slice, but was put off by an unpleasant smell, like maybe the dishwasher vents into the dining room.

                    Bobby G's Pizzeria
                    2074 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                    Pie In The Sky
                    2124 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                  2. Pie in the Sky (pizza)
                    Caffe Intermezzo (really good and cheap salads and sandwiches)
                    Panini (near Jupiter in Trumpetvine Ct. off Shattuck)
                    Le Petite Cheval (Vietnamese steam table)
                    Hummingbird Cafe (sandwiches)
                    Cancun (Mexican; great salsa)
                    Cafe Durant (for white chocolate pancakes)
                    The Orchid (cheapest Chinese food around)

                    And if you get her into Indian food...

                    Naan 'n Curry
                    Chaat Cafe

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: katya

                      i've been to the telegraph nann and curry about three times with
                      a large group, so in total i've had about 15+ dishes in front of me and
                      i think that branch is the worst one by a significant margin.

                      of course i havent been there in a while, so maybe they've
                      gotten better, but i cant bring myself to go back.

                      so that's not the place i'd take somebody to sell them on
                      cheep-n-tasty indian food.

                      bonbo burger b'fast was always a good deal. my personal
                      fav there was the persian lamb burger.

                      if you gf is willing to walk for food, there is gregoire and cheeseboard [$2.25/slice].
                      [gregoire sandwiches arent large but are pretty good.

                      these days $5 pretty much limits you to slice and a coke or one of the
                      cheeper delis and a can of soda [cheese-n-stuff as the fellow above
                      suggests, or stuffed in, on north side ... cheap and passable, but not that
                      exciting. like getting a sandwich at safeway.].

                      there are also "out of the box" options like the counter at one of the andonicos ...
                      if you want to go the pasta salad type route. the pizzas at the north shattuck andronicos
                      looked pretty good in terms of price-perf but i cant remember if i had had one ... of course
                      when in that area i'm usually bound for cheeseboard.

                      of course there is the infamous Durant Grease Court ... that's sort of a YMMV kinda
                      place [north side of durant, half a block above/east of telegraph].

                      1. re: psb

                        When I worked there a couple years ago, I ate a lot at Slurp, which has noodle bowls. They're on Telegraph. At that time, you could get a big bowl of wonton noodle soup for $5.

                        There's a Thai place in the Durant food court that isn't bad for cheap student eats. I can't remember what it's called, but it's all the way in the back on the left.

                        I ate a lot of meals at Caffe Intermezzo when I was a student, but that was six or seven years ago. I was never that big on their salads, but their bread was decent.

                        1. re: screetchycello

                          The place in the Durant food court is Thai Basil. It's pretty typical Berkeley Thai.

                          Thai Basil Cuisine
                          2519 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                          1. re: bradluen

                            Thanks! Yeah, it's not phenomenal by any means. I just remember it being a) close and b) not bad. It has been a while, though.

                            1. re: screetchycello

                              When I last ate at Thai Basil, albeit probably 5 years ago, they had a really good chicken pineapple curry. However, the chicken was barely edible. I'm admittedly not a dark meat fan, but I have had good dark meat. This was not good dark meat. Anyway, the sauce is really good so maybe you could order it vegetarian.

                              Arinell is another decent pizza option. But if you're going to do pizza in downtown Berkeley, you should do it at Pie in the Sky. Avoid La Val's at all costs.

                                  1. re: katya

                                    I think the Northside location is still open.

                                    1. re: ML8000

                                      It is and so is the San Pablo Ave location. Only the Durant location closed.

                      2. re: katya

                        Note about salads from Cafe Intermezzo--they are effing huge. Even more huge than they appear, because they de-compress as you eat them. There is more lettuce in one of those bowls than should actually fit by the laws of physics. I swear, it's the clown car of salads. You eat and eat and eat and the amount of salad does not decrease. Unless your girlfriend is seven feet tall or a hardcore rugby or ice hockey player, one regular salad there will be at least two meals, maybe more.

                        1. re: Louise

                          I love your description of it as "the clown car of salads." That's absolutely true. Their sandwiches are the same way. Half a salad or half a sandwich is a meal in itself. The fact that the salads and sandwiches are about $5 is one of the pleasures of living near a college. Oh, how I miss those um, salad days of my youth.

                      3. When I was in college, I split my breakfast purchases between Bongo Burger and Annie's Soup Kitchen. Bongo had better eggs but Annie's had better potatoes. Cafe Durant had good veggie omelets.

                        Definitely have your gf check out Intermezzo. She could even pick up a loaf of that honey wheat bread for you. Yum.

                        I used to go to Thai House when I was feeling a little more fancy (hey, this was in the 90's and I was a broke joke). They had a really good grilled pork with 3 spices dish.

                        Everybody I knew loved Blondie's and Fat Slice for pizza by the slice. I prefered Top Dog's top dog.

                        I absolutely adored Cafe Milano's turkey sandwich, which was served on foccacia with roasted bell peppers AND came with a salad.

                        Down by BART, there's a Pho place next to the UA Theater. Also check out Cafe Venice and La Note for brunch and sandwiches.

                        Finally, your gf should check out Lucky House, a yummy Thai place that serves very spicy food very slowly.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: yehfromthebay

                          I assume you mean Anne's Kitchen? The breakfast food there is greasy but pretty good.

                        2. Everyone's hit most of the places I would try. I would like to add the 59 cent milk tea at the Quickly in Durant food court. Hey you need something to wash down your dinner right? hehe.

                          1. I guess I am inspired by your working on getting her to like Indian food. I love Berkeley specificially for the Indian food. In SF (where I am) it is particularly hard to find South Indian food. I am guessing that like other people I know who don't like "Indian Food" it's because they think the food is too spicy or rich.

                            In your quest to convert your girlfriend to liking Indian, may I suggest you start with South Indian food. All vegitarian and milder, if you chose correctly. Specifically start with a DOSA... everyone (well I think so) loves these... Thin rice flour crepes filled with potatoes and veg (and a hint of curry). Plus it visually impressive and really cheap. The dosa will come out hanging over the plate (1.5 ft. long about). Plus, you get to eat with your fingers a fun thing to share with someone you care about (smiles).

                            I found an old link on Vik's (not as close to UC but pretty famous in Berkeley) and Udupi (on University)... check it out: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/30716

                            Hope this adds to your enjoyment of South Indian food.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: boomer13

                              Vik's is on the other side of town, two miles from campus.

                              Udupi's good, slight detour, 5-6 blocks from BART. As boomer13 notes, the food is quite different than the Pakistani food most Indian restaurants serve.

                              Udupi Palace
                              1901 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                              1. re: boomer13

                                Actually, I recently took her to Vik's as her very first Indian food experience (a couple weeks before I posted this thread), and we did try the dosa, the bhaturra cholle and cauliflower and lamb parathas. She thought most of it was alright, although the lamb paratha she actually REALLY liked.

                                So Vik's opened the door, and we're celebrating my birthday next weekend, so she's taking me to my favorite Indian restaurant, Masala in Danville. I've never had anything better than their mutton khandari, and their naan, basmati rice and vegetarian dishes are all outstanding. I can really taste a difference in freshness of the ingredients compared to other Indian places I go to; so hopefully Masala will be able to convert her.

                                Thanks for jumping in to help me make the conversion! :-)

                                1. re: Ozumo

                                  If she liked lamb parathas, then she should check out Khana Peena, right on the way to/from BART. Also Naan-N-Curry on Telegraph near campus, or better yet Tandoor Kitchen 5-6 blocks south.

                                  Naan N Curry
                                  2366 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                  Tandoor Kitchen
                                  2598 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                  Dollar Curry House
                                  2136 Oxford St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Thanks for the tip! She would definitely want to order that again. Also, thank you to everyone who's given advice so far, I really appreciate it.

                                  2. re: Ozumo

                                    The chicken kathi kabab served only on weekends is a good "gateway" Indian food.

                                2. And if your gf is around in the evening, the Desi Dog cart at Bancroft & Telegraph has $1.50 dogs between 5-8 PM Not Top Dog quality, but the price can't be beat.