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Visiting our son @ Cal

We're going to visit our son the freshman and are looking for your best Berkeley-area recommendations for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nothing touristy, no chains... just the best of the local scene. Thanks.

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  1. The Cheese Board Collective, on Shattuck Ave. across from Chez Panisse.

    In the morning, you can get baked goods and really strong coffee. Starting at 10am you can buy cheese from their amazing selection - everything from gouda to ... well everything! A few doors down is the Cheese Board Pizza Collective. Unique thin crust pizzas.


    Cheese Board Pizza
    1512 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

    1. Vik's is amazing Indian food somewhat close to campus. I always loved to take my parents to Raleigh's for them to see my college scene while eating tasty sandwiches and salads. Zachary's has great thick crusted pizza and I really enjoy Somerset for brunch. There is a great cafe on campus in the undergraduate library....the Free Speech Cafe has great salads and sandwiches with a cool vibe....you can feel like one of the students. These area all cheaper places.

      1. Usual suspects (not all of which I recommend personally), search the archive for reports:

        A Cote
        Bay Wolf
        Cafe Rouge
        Chez Panisse
        Dona Tomas
        O Chame
        Riva Cucina
        Sea Salt

        Re past discussions, note that Le Theatre and Zax have closed.

        Couple of topics on breakfast / lunch / brunch / cheap places with links to more topics:


        6 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Good list and I think if I were in collage near Cal I would want something a bit away and different. I think A Cote would be the perfect place.

          1. re: Lori SF

            If I were there now, I would want to go to Chez Panisse, Bar Cesar or A Cote for a nicer night out. When I was there, I loved to take my parents to Oakland Chinatown for pho, the Cheese Board, and of course Durant Courtyard so they could see what I often ate on my undergrad budget. These days I would also take them to Vik's and Fourth Street -- lunch at Cafe Rouge is a very nice stop.

            Have a great visit!

            1. re: bernalgirl

              Ack! Just read http://www.chowhound.com/topics/448396 and rescind my Cafe Rouge rec -- why chance it on your brief visit? Go to lunch at Vik's and enjoy a stroll and a gelato at Sketch on 4th Street. O Chame is a lovely calm place for lunch, too.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              The Chron reports that Olivia has been sold and will be reopening October 15 as Diggs Bistro.


              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                There was dinner-looking activity inside when I walked by last night.

            2. Chez Panisse.

              Great China for Peking Duck.

              1. As cliche as it is to say so, you really should have dinner at Chez Panisse. It is the antithesis of chain dining, and the epicenter of the Bay Area culinary scene. The cafe upstairs is casual and reasonable. Here's a typical menu: http://www.chezpanisse.com/pgcafemenu... You need to book in advance unless dining very late. The cafe is also open for lunch.

                If you cannot get into Chez Panisse, consider Cafe Rouge on Fourth Street. http://www.caferouge.net/menu.htm

                Lunch is a great time to check out the usually crazy busy Wood Tavern on College Ave. at the Oakland-Berkeley border.

                I also like Sea Salt on San Pablo Ave. for simple seafood preparations, great sandwiches, and really nice veg sides. http://www.seasaltrestaurant.com/ Fine for lunch or dinner.

                For breakfast on a weekend, Eccolo os a good option. The food is good and they take reservations (most good East Bay breakfast options entail a 1-2 hour wait for a table on weekends. http://www.eccolo.com/brunch.htm

                1 Reply
                1. re: lexdevil

                  A 3rd or 4th on CP. It's the prototypical Berkeley dining experience. Everything else listed is great but if you want a start point...that would be it. I'd also go to Top Dog.

                2. For a less crowded breakfast scene you might try Kensington Bistro in Albany. You'll have to drive if you are staying near the campus, but it's only about 5-10 mins away. I'd recommend sunday brunch, as they only bake certain items on Sunday.

                  1. Another brunch/breakfast place - Rick & Ann's, near the Claremont Hotel.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ML8000

                      Hellish wait on weekends. Decent option on weekdays. The red flannel hash is tasty for the beet and bacon lover.

                      1. re: lexdevil

                        Yeah, the line does get hairy....sort of expensive too...but it does have that Berkeley vibe, well a nicer Berkeley vibe then Telegraph.

                    2. 900 Grayson is great for breakfast or lunch. Just had the fuji apple/parsnip/potato corned beef hash. Yum! Also, great chicken and waffles. Nice atmosphere in an industrial area.

                      Second on Cheeseboard Pizza for lunch. It's really a great scene and great pizza. People get their pizza slices and have impromptu picnics on the median strip of Shattuck.

                      You might want to try the Claremont Hotel's bar for drinks and snacks since it's got such a great view. The weather has been great lately, very clear.

                      900 Grayson
                      900 Grayson St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: meemster

                        I was just panhandled 7 times walking down that block and 7 more times walking back. Sitting on some grass in the middle of a street with people slumped by their shopping carts doesn't seem like much fun.

                        OTOH the Claremont Hotel's bar is a good idea and not one that comes up much.

                        1. re: Glencora

                          Panhandled in Berkeley? No way ;-). I didn't know it was getting that bad there. Sometimes, it's fun when there's someone playing jazz in the Cheeseboard, and it seems like everyone's in a good mood. But I guess if the ambiance is not so good these days, you might as well head a block up to Gregoire for an open air (and excellent) lunch in that area.

                          2109 Cedar St, Berkeley, CA 94709

                          1. re: Glencora

                            The new Cheeseboard pizza has about three times more seating than the old one. No more need to sit on the median, though people still do.

                            If you don't want to deal with panhandlers, drive to Walnut Creek and eat lousy food.

                            The new Cheeseboard:


                            1. re: Morton the Mousse

                              mort, I wouldn't call prima, wc yacht club, or va de vi "lousy".

                              thank you

                            2. re: Glencora

                              I've never been panhandled sitting on the median across from Cheeseboard.

                          2. Definitely the upstairs cafe at Chez Panisse -- memorable for you, something he can brag to any friends that know food. Order and share a bunch of dishes, especially any soups and grilled items.

                            Top Dog is a classic. But for a lunch I'd go to Zachary's for some fairly unique and definitely tasty stuffed pizza.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: nosh

                              I was just going to say that. The one time I went to Chez Panisse for dinner with my parents sticks in my mind even 9 years later, and I know that meal got discussed more times than I could count. I was friends with a group where after a parent's dinner we would all sit around and ask more questions about it 'Tell us again about the part where you each had your OWN dessert' etc.

                            2. Weekend brunch at the Claremont is fantastic
                              A little pricey, but worth it.

                              1. If I were in Berkeley for a day, I would start with a coffee at the original Peet's. Then at 11:00 am I would be at Vik's (corner of 4th and Allston; you'd need a car) when it opened for a brunch of chaat. When I was hungry again I'd stop at Top Dog (its a local chain but that shouldn't disqualify it....) and then do a latish dinner at Chez Panisse..either cafe upstairs or the downstairs, depending on your pocketbook and preference.

                                That would pretty much be a perfect chow day in my book........

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: janetofreno

                                  Jane- what a terrific day! I have been lucky enough to have eaten/drank at each of your recs but never in one day. That would surely be wonderful and loads of fun. The next day I would rest on my laurels and think back with fondness.

                                2. Wood Tavern on college ave. Awesome food. The best fancy grilled cheese sandwich and shoe string fries.
                                  Fat Apples--the best waffles and cheese puffs (puff pastry with a sweet cream cheese filling

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: peppatty

                                    For dinner, I'd reserve upstairs at Chez Panisse.

                                    For weekend brunch, I'd go with Eccolo in the 4th St. area. Very fun window shopping (eg. Sur La Table, market next to Cafe Rouge) in vibrant neighborhood. Very Berkeley.

                                    Have fun!

                                  2. Ryowa Ramen is good. It's on University.
                                    How about Skates on the Bay? 100 Seawall Drive on the Marina.
                                    Triple Rock. 1920 Shattuck at Hearst.
                                    Fonda on Albany.

                                    1. Bongo Burger (3 locations, but mine while in school was 2505 Dwight Way) is also on my list of great local eats. Falfel, cheese burgers and the best fries. La Calaca Loca (5199 Telegraph, Oakland) has great fish tacos and it's across the street from Bakesale Betty's, great scones, cookies.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: peppatty

                                        Ah Bongo Burger, home of the Persian burger (lamb kebab sandwich) and a nice Middle Eastern menu. Good stuff.

                                        1. re: ML8000

                                          OMG -- Bongo Burger is still alive and cooking?!? Used to love that place when I was in law school just over 20 years ago. Tasty luleh kabob for lunch. If I had time for a bit of an extra walk before morning classes, a rare occurrence, I loved their tender, paprika-orange, wonderful hash brown potatoes. Wow.

                                      2. I'm still pretty fond of Adagia, at the corner of College and Bancroft, opposite one of the Berkeley campus's south entrances. The original chef, Brian Beach, has left, but whoever is back there is keeping the quality high, if that judgment is reliable based on a couple of recent visits. Portion sizes have grown, if anything. Hopping at lunch during the school year ... if you collect mugshots of senior UC administrators, you'll be happy here. Dinner crowds can be lively or torpid, depending (I gather) on what's going on that evening on the campus. A big Greek Theatre or Zellerbach show can sell out Adagia pretty easily, since it's the only grownup eating spot within an easy walk of those venues.