Gourmet Ghetto: not so much any more?
- Robert Lauriston Mar 5, 2008 01:30 PM
Recent posts by tourists planning to spend time touring Berkeley's "Gourmet Ghetto" (Shattuck around Chez Panisse) made me think maybe the name's out of date.
Lots of the places that made its reputation are gone (Pig by the Tail, North Berkeley Wine, Cocolat, Vivoli), dated (Juice Bar Collective, French Hotel, Poulet), or no longer unique (Peet's). More recent attractions like Phoenix Pastificio and Shuna Lydon's desserts at Poulet are gone too. What's left?
Chez Panisse is great (if you have a reservation).
The Cheese Board is a great cheese store.
Cheese Board Pizza is unique, fun, and cheap.
Cesar is good upscale bar and tapas place, but the branch on Piedmont is better.
Vintage Berkeley is an excellent wine shop but not exactly a tourist attraction.
Some people love Gregoire, I don't get the appeal. (Doesn't help that on my first and only visit I ended up with grease all over my lap from lack of seating and the weird octagonal box.)
Maybe a couple of the places in Epicurous Garden have some good food, I dunno. I'm too creeped out by the Disneylandish claustrophobic space.
I think that's about it. Are any of the other restaurants of interest unless you live in the neighborhood? Barney's? Cha-Am? Saul's? Not really destination sorts of places.
Agreed. A diaspora of sorts has occurred, and great food destinations are now scattered more evenly throughout the Bay Area.
I still think you should give Gregoire another chance. If you're dining alone, it's usually pretty easy to score a spot at the counter. The corned beef and lamb patty on the March menu are both great. And I had a perfect basket of fries there last weekend.
But I agree with you. I do my shopping and eating all over Berkeley - downtown, 4th St, Hopkins, Solano, and beyond. I live near the GG, and my visits are pretty much limited to Cheeseboard, Cheeseboard Pizza, Vintage, Andronico's, Gregoire, and the occasional bottle of coconut water from Cafe Gratitude. I do think that Cheeseboard alone makes the area a worthwhile destination.
The new Rivoli venture will be a welcome addition:
re: Robert Lauriston
Smoked Salmon sandwich at Eccolo: $17
Smoked Salmon sandwich at Gregoire: $7.50
Pulled Pork Sandwich at Eccolo: $14
Pulled Pork Sandwich at Gregoire: $7
Steak Sandwich at Eccolo: $16
Steak Sandwich at Gregoire: $7.50
Cheeseburger at Eccolo: $15.25
Cheeseburger at Gregoire: $8
There's a reason Gregoire is always mobbed with students; low overhead costs directly translate to smaller markups on the food.
To my taste, Gregoire uses superior beef and pork than the Niman standard. This is not intended to disparage Eccolo, I just tend to spend twice as much or more there than I do at Gregoire.
Oh, and Gregoire does give you utensils, albeit shiny plastic ones.
It's a natural occurance compounded by real estate prices, change and opportunity. Besides people and places moving on, the price of rent and overhead has gone up, hence new places and innovators go where the rent is "reasonable". GG success and stability probably has kept innovators out due to available space and cost. Also that stretch of Shattuck isn't that long, what 4 blocks and not all of it commercial.
Another issue is a place as a destination rather then just a regular neighborhood. Many neighborhoods in the Bay Area have experienced this...from a low key service area to a destination.
Add in the fact that the upping of overall quality in the BA and jaded people looking for a new buzz and yeah, things get old. Everyone gets old, nothing stays the same, expect perhaps a few hippies in Berkeley but even they change.