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Berkeley on the Cheap?

Son is going to Berkeley for a conference most of next week. He is an undergrad going with a grad student whom he's been collaborating on some research with. Neither one of them has much money, obviously. They are staying in a dorm (Foothill Hall, which is up near Stern Hall on Hearst...so close to the Northside...), and breakfast and lunch are included...but not dinner. So they are looking for good, cheap places to chow. He asked me since I went to school there, but things have changed in 30 years so I might not be the best resource. Obviously Vik's (if he can get there before they close for the evening) and Top Dog are possibilities...but where else do you recommend? He will have a car.

I figured the Hounds might have some ideas.....



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    1. The Northside Bongo Burger location is close, cheap, and tasty.

      3 Replies
      1. re: lexdevil

        yes, BONGO!

        while listening to the constant dulcet and montone refrain from the kitchen "falafel, falafel, falafel, lule kabob, lu-le ka-bob"

        it's been years since the SO was in grad school and lived on LeComte, but there were (and I would bet still are) a slew of cheap and cheap-ish places on that stretch of Euclid and Hearst.

        1. re: hill food

          A 4th or 5th on Bongo...nothing like a Persian burger at 10 p.m.

          Pie in the Sky and Mario's La Fiesta are good picks too.

          1. re: ML8000

            Holy crap! Bongo Burger has updated their website. And they're using Niman Ranch... Menu is here: http://bongoburger.com/menu.htm

            Also reminded me that they have a real bargain breakfast. Three egg cheese omelet w/ toast and home fries for just $4.15. Two eggs, sausage or bacon, toast and home fries for less than $5.00. The 'shroom and cheese omelet is great for the price.

      2. on the southside, cafe intermezzo is very good and cheap - it's the only salad place that i would actually go to. good sandwiches and bread. also raleigh's is a good pub a couple doors down, both are on telegraph.

        le bateau ivre is a few blocks farther down on telegraph. it's a nice, quaint french restaurant, but it's also great for a drink before dinner.

        le petit cheval on bancroft has good vietnamese for the price.

        i don't think there are any good places on hearst / euclid northside, except for maybe the top dog.

        if he's willing to drive or go for a long walk, the gourmet ghetto has good places. cheeseboard pizza is especially good and cheap (maybe he could compare it with blondies).

        3 Replies
        1. re: cornflower55

          Bongo Burger = exception to Northside = nebbish rule. Good falafel, Persian (lamb) burger, grilled eggplant sandwich...

          1. re: cornflower55

            Cheese Board Pizza's the only good place (maybe the only place, period) in the not-so-Gourmet-anymore Ghetto that's anywhere close to the same price range as Vik's and Top Dog.

            1. re: cornflower55

              >le bateau ivre is a few blocks farther down on telegraph. it's a nice,
              >quaint french restaurant, but it's also great for a drink before dinner.
              if i were on a budget [and had access to a car], i think it would be a
              shame to make bateau ivre my "splurge" destination ... i thought
              the food was "blah" and the service was sort of inexplicably lame ...
              like service would take a surreal amount of time even when the
              resto was close to empty.

              i suppose they might be ok for a drink

              i did like the espresso milkshakes with a shot of cointreu tho ...
              even if it took an insane amount of time to make the transaction happen.

              [this is based on quite a few years ago ... pre-Y2K]

              in my book ptit cheval, raleighs, are pretty fair for the money.
              i used to like intermezzo more but the last couple of time there
              it didnt measure up so much ... maybe my tastes have shifted
              in the gregoire direction.

              cheeseboard of course is a crown jewel.

            2. One of my favorite cheap eats in Berkeley is Lucky House Thai on the south side of University between Oxford and Shattuck. Large menu and super fresh ingredients on the cheap.

              Also, there are tons of student options on the south side of campus like the Durant food court. Very cheap and surprisingly tasty, at least by student standards...

              1. Gregoire at Haste & Shattuck -- can find the menu on line. Changes each month. Very fair prices.

                4 Replies
                1. re: walker

                  fair and cheap are too different things, and Gregoire is not cheap, IMO.

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    Yeah, Gregoire is not cheap at all. If they want pizza, I've found Jupiter on Shattuck to be pretty affordable, and if it's a nice night, they have a good sized patio in the back. There have also been good reports on Bobby G's pizza, which is nearby.

                    FYI, Vik's closes for the evening at 8 now (this is a relatively recent change), so unless his conference runs really late, he should be able to easily get there in time.

                    1. re: JasmineG

                      Is Vik's open every night until 8? I thought that only applied to the weekend nights....

                      1. re: janetofreno

                        Hmm, that could be true, but the hours on their website still say 6 everyday, which I know isn't true. Maybe he should call.

                2. South side House of Curries, Top Dog, new Chinese place on 2nd floor across from Durant Cafe. take a long walk to Maritime East on Telegraph, for one of the best burgers in the East Bay. Catch the perimeter shuttle to other side of campus, on University, Brasil Cafe, Bobby G's Pizzeria, Anh Hong for vietnamese food, Turkish Kitchen.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: nicedragonboy

                    I hate to sound like a grump, but to me, cheap means cheap, and the $10.75 burger at Maritime is NOT cheap (and is by far the cheapest thing on the menu if one of the guys decides they don't want a burger). I really like Maritime East, but for broke college students it is more of the type of place one goes if ones parents are paying:


                    Turkish Kitchen seems like it would be a good choice though.

                    Cafe Tibet would probably be something they can't get at home, and is inexpensive, though perhaps not downright cheap.

                    Also, though I haven't been in a long while myself, what about Ryowa?

                    2068 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                    Cafe Tibet
                    2020 University Ave, Berkeley, CA

                    Maritime East
                    2826 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA

                    Turkish Kitchen
                    1984 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                    1. re: nicedragonboy

                      Maritime East's burger is cheap only compared with Eccolo's or Flora's.

                      Bobby G's is relatively expensive compared with Cheese Board Pizza.

                      Anh Hong is one of the more expensive Asian places in the immediate area and is relatively expensive compared with some of the Vietnamese places in downtown Oakland.

                    2. How cheap is cheap. Some ideas for inexpensive ... $10 or less

                      I like Turkish Kitchen a lot. Across the street Brazil Cafe is good. Down San Pablo in Emeryville is Wally's which is Lebanese / Meditteranean ... but I like Turkish Kitchen more.

                      What kind of food does he like? How large portions?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rworange

                        That search turns up a really random selection of places. I wouldn't recommend most of them.

                      2. Casa Latina on San Pablo two blocks north of University has incredibly fabulous tacos that are ridiculously cheap.

                        Second (or should I say third) for Bongo Burger.

                        17 Replies
                        1. re: TopoTail

                          Casa Latina's good but not particularly cheap for Mexican.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Are you thinking of the same place? If anything in there is more than $7 I'd be shocked.

                            1. re: rworange

                              I'm definitely thinking of Casa Latina. I was a little surprised by the prices, but they use some organic ingredients and Niman meat and so on.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                I haven't been there for a while, but I'm pretty certain you can get two tacos piled high with meat and extra cheese for under $5, and that's a cheap meal in my book.

                                1. re: TopoTail

                                  Their prices have gone up. You could definitely fill up for under $10, it's just relatively expensive compared with some of the places in Oakland.

                                  In the immediate area, I think Indus Village, Lanesplitter,
                                  De Afghanan, and Kabana are better values. Maybe the lunch buffet at Priya, too. The no-choice hot lunch buffet at Indus Foods is ridiculously cheap.

                                  Speaking of cheap Indian, there's also Dollar Curry House (Khana Peena) and the small but good lunch buffet at the Indian grocer next door to Viceroy.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Yeah, but from what I've read, including hhc's report on chowhound, you get what you pay for at Dollar Curry House.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Dollar Curry House is pretty terrible. I've gotten spinach and potatoes there that was almost inedible. I like Naan and Curry a whole lot better.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston


                                    I think you may have misread the menu. I was in Casa Latina today and the most expensive thing on the menu was a dinner plate for $8 that came with choice of meat, rice, beans, salsa, tortillas, Everything else was $4 - $6.75. Tacos were $2. each and the Tamarindo aqua fresca I bought was $1.50. Chipotle a few blocks up is more than that. On top of it you are getting quality ingrediants. The baked goods today looked fabulous. There were all these great cheese-filled flakey baked goods ... I hesitate to call them Danish because ... well, it just isn't done.

                                    Anyway Janet, probably a better place that is owned by the same people is Montecristo Taqueria. I stopped in today and had some soup which was good.

                                    I have shunned this place forever because it looked Americanized I'm really sorry I did. This is somewere mid-point between Montero's and Casa Latina

                                    Like Casa Latina they have a mix of Latinos and non Latinos.

                                    I was really suprised to see that they serve Margaritas ... with tequila ... for only $5.50. They make their own sangria which is $4.50.

                                    The most expensive thing on the menu is the Mexican Plate which has the same stuff as Casa Latina but a bit more ... $8.95. However, the prices are still the same range as Casa Latino .. the tacos are actually only $1.85. It is such a nice little restaurant. Nice salsa bar. I'll do a report soon but I'm just too tired today. Tell your sister that theya have chilaquiles for breakfast ($5.90) What is cool is for an extra $2 they add chorizo to it. That just sounds great.

                                    It is next door to Andronico's on University. There's a parking area.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      I stand corrected. $2 is a bargain considering the quality.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Eh, I was just panicked that they had raised prices drastically. I haven't been for a few months. I really like the place and didn't want to get sticker shock on the next visit.

                                        Along similar lines ...slightly more American is Tacubaya on 4th Street which tops out at $7.95. Not everthing is great there, but on the weekends they make the best menudo.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          I was startled by the tab at Casa Latina, but I guess it was mostly beers.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            I'm not sure how I got confused, but I went for lunch today and the prices were low, from $2 for tacos to $8 for a plate with meat, rice, beans, 5 tortillas, guacamole, etc.

                                            Carnitas were delicious (not the crispy type). I won't make the mistake of ordering the chicken again.

                                              1. re: sydthekyd

                                                Dry and tasteless in both a taco and a tamale. The sign says they bake all their meats in olive oil. They might do better to poach the chicken or switch from white meat to dark.

                                2. re: TopoTail

                                  I'll endorse CASA LATINA too.
                                  Their horchata was also quite good [$1.50/$2].
                                  I didnt analyze the fruit Aqua Frescae.

                                  BTW, while I'm at it ... unless you are looking for mass quantities,
                                  lunch at GREGOIRE isnt that expensive ... the potatos are at $4,
                                  but lots of places are in the $7-8 range for a sandwich/burger.
                                  [pretty much in the same range as fatapples with tip. less
                                  than sauls ... which i'd call pricey].

                                  Lanesplittler is pretty good ... i like arinell when they are on, but
                                  it is pretty hit and miss. Might try cross my fingers and try Arinell
                                  just to stick a toe in the controversy.

                                  1. re: psb

                                    Other places in Gregoire's price range give you a place to sit indoors and often even table service.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      arent we being a little pedantic? ... particularly given
                                      that i qualified as *lunch* ... which is generally pretty portable food.
                                      yeah gregoire is a togo place ... which means "low(er) tip" ... which
                                      means you can pay retail for you drink of choice etc.

                                      how about mentioning driving to CL or Viks will burn 50cents in gas.

                                3. TAIWAN RESTAURANT at University Ave and Shattuck is my favorite
                                  Their weekend lunch specials such as the South Taiwanese noodle soup (under $3) is really good. The tofu pork skin roll (almost like a sausage) is very good as well and cheap + rice = best comfort food. Stick with tried and true dishes that were already discussed on the board.

                                  JAYAKARTA is another good one for Indonesian restaurant. Rice plate should be cheap. Their special fried rice should be quite good as well.

                                  1. With a car, Champa Garden is an option. The #14 Champa Sampler ($10) is a particularly great value. More suggestions:


                                    1. As a fellow Bear who graduated not too, too long ago, here were my favorite spots for cheap eats around the campus:


                                      1. Cheeseboard Collective - Fun, irreverent pizza place with 1 option of pizza per day. The lines are long, but sometimes they have someone playing the cello!

                                      2. Top Dog (across the street from Durant Square) - It's an institution.

                                      3. Durant Square - this is where I spent my freshman year nights. The food goes from good to suspect depending on which of the ~8 small food restaurants you go to. My favorite was the Korean BBQ place and in particular, the short rib plate.


                                      1. La Note is the best brunch place in all of Berkeley. :) Toasted cinnamon brioche with lavender honey used to cost me $1.50 but expect inflation over the years.

                                      2. Unicorn is the best Vietnamese place in all of Berkeley. Lunch is a much better deal as all the professors have caused prices to double since it first opened. Best plates there are: 1) Unicorn rolls (sounds hokey, I know) but so much better than the rolls at Slanted Door, 2) Prawn claypot.


                                      College is the best foodie place in Cal, but would take him say ~20 minutes to walk from the Northside of campus. There's a stretch that goes for about 2 blocks near college and Ashby where I spent my senior year. It's a bit pricier but good for some of the fun treats that way, including Icee - this great ice cream parlor. Yum.


                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: wdot

                                        Durant Square and the original Top Dog are on southside. As mentioned above, there's another Top Dog in northside, on Hearst.

                                        La Note is very good but about as expensive as breakfast gets around here. It's downtown on Shattuck.

                                        Unicorn is pan-Asian. The chef opened a second branch in SF. I'm not sure we've had any reports since then.

                                        The stretch of College near Ashby is the Elmwood. Unfortunately it's a relatively affluent neighborhood, and the only good cheap places there are Holy Land, which is worth the trip, and House of Curries, which is quite similar to Naan N Curry on Telegraph near campus--but if you're going out of your way there's better Indian. Ici makes some of the best but also most expensive ice cream in the area.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Having some work done in my house...
                                          My El Salvadorean and Mexican workmen have been raving about Gordo's cheap, juicy super burritos. (Elmwood, on College.) I checked it out - wow, what a pleasant surprise. Everything was made fresh. Lunch hour wait was a tad too long, however. Line was out the door, down the sidewalk.

                                      2. I used to *love* Taiwan Restaurant on University Avenue, just a minute's walk from campus. I ate there almost every day. The real Chinese dishes (e.g., steamed dumplings, noodle soups) were so delicious and inexpensive -- and the American-Chinese stuff was about as good as it gets.

                                        Also, the Mexican dive on the corner of University and Shattuck (across the street from McDonald's; same general area as Taiwan Restaurant) had the best burritos in town.

                                        Also there was a good Thai restaurant (Thai House?) on, I think, Durant. It's visible from Telegraph at any rate.

                                        1. May I also suggest (like the other Chowhounds) Durant Square (the food court across from Top Dog). The locals (or at least my friends and I) call it the "Ghetto" or the "Asian Ghetto" because of the Asian restaurants that surround that area. My favorite is going to the Bear House (Korean) and ordering kim chi fried rice. It's absolutely my favorite dish to get there. There are also Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese places.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: westcoaststyle

                                            Haha. My friends all call it the "Asian Ghetto," too. Must be an Easy Bay thing.

                                            As a student, I'd like to throw my two cents in about what constitutes "student eats." On most nights, I'd prefer most of my meals to be $10 or less. $15 is passable, $7-8 ideal. Gregoire, while very lovely food, is not student eats.

                                            Here's the list of places where I tend to go for decent food on a "student" budget that are within walking distance of campus:

                                            -Bongo Burger - LOVE their shish kabab sandwiches.
                                            -Cheeseboard on Shattuck for a slice.
                                            -Cheese 'N Stuff for deli sandwiches (under Durant Parking garage... ask Moe at the flower shop, he'll direct you).
                                            -Turkish Kitchen on Shattuck at University.
                                            -Brasil Café for tri tip sandwiches or plates on University. I like sitting outside at the funky shack in the Ace Hardware parking lot. It's oddly peaceful.
                                            -Top Dog on Durant for sausages/hot dogs.
                                            -Jupiter on Shattuck for salads/pizza.
                                            -Kabana on University for Pakistani (greasy but oh so good).
                                            -"Asian Ghetto" aka Durant Food Court. I always go to Thai Basil on the back left and get the #45 with lots of sriracha.
                                            -Raleigh's to watch the game.

                                            Avoid at all costs:
                                            -Blake's. Lousy food, worse service.

                                            1. re: adrienne156

                                              Just a note that Brasil Cafe has two locations now. The orginal on University and another indoor restaurant across from Turkish Kitchen on Shattuck. The Shattuck location serves a few more dishes. There is usually a Brazilian special each day.

                                              1. re: adrienne156

                                                Raleigh's for their good selection of microbrews. That's where I had my first taste of Anchor's Old Foghorn barleywine -- at a mere $2.75 per pint! I'm sure that's no longer the case. However, last I heard, Raleigh's maintained their fine selection of CA. micros.

                                            2. In college there were two things I loved more than anything else: long walks and
                                              Indian food. And if I could combine the two .. heaven. On the off chance your son
                                              has the same problem, here's what I'd suggest.

                                              Day 1: Walk south across campus to College Ave. Head a mile or so down to House
                                              of Curries. Have the lamb vindaloo. Afterwards, stop into Espresso Roma for a coffee
                                              with thirty thousand other people just like him. Here's a map. It's about a mile and a half:

                                              Next night, head down University to either Indus Village or Kabana. On the way back,
                                              dessert at Fosters Freeze. Two miles:

                                              Day three, the big walk to Cafe Raj on Solano in Albany. After dinner his grad school
                                              friend can buy him a beer at the Pub. Three miles:

                                              These places are all pretty inexpensive and they're different enough that if he
                                              cheaps out and gets the chicken tikka masala at each one, it will be a different
                                              meal each time.

                                              The reason for all this walking is because Berkeley is one of the nicest walking
                                              towns in the country and there's no better way to see it and no better time of year
                                              to be doing it. Roses and geraniums are really happening right now. Loquats and
                                              plums in the trees are ripe.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone


                                                House of Curries
                                                2984 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                                                Roma Cafe
                                                2960 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                                                Indus Village Restaurant
                                                1920 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                                Schmidts Tobacco Trading & Pub
                                                1492 Solano Ave, Albany, CA

                                                Kabana Restaurant
                                                1106 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                                Foster's Freeze
                                                1199 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                  Placifying ... love it ... going to steal that.

                                                  Anyone been to the new Indian place on University and Shattuck? I think one of the papers did a review recently.

                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    Biryani House, in the former Burger King / Curry in a Hurry / Mount Everest space? No reports yet. It looks considerably nicer inside. A review in the EBX last month listed prices of $4-6 for vegetarian dishes.

                                                2. re: janetofreno

                                                  The smoke tends to blow off during the day, when the wind is blowing in off the ocean.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    to try and keep it chow focused, I couldn't see the Carnelian Room (aka Bank of America Building) from the SF end of Bay Bridge yesterday, at three-thirty in the afternoon.

                                                    asthma sufferers are being adivsed to stay indoors, though next week may improve.

                                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                                      Things cleared up today in Berkeley/Oakland. Pretty much straight westerlies blowing through the bay at 10-12 mph. Everything is clear and quite nice out.

                                                3. Just a quick update:

                                                  Son just got back from Berkeley and reported in.....he never made it to Top Dog, which I consider a travesty. But he did eat at Vik's, and at a Salvadorean restaurant somewhere on the south side that he liked (he couldn't remember the name.....), as well as Durant Square where all the asian places are.

                                                  But his favorite meal was the "splurge" of the week, at Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen on Shattuck. Son's girlfriend is off to Tulane in a few months, and he's trying to figure out how to get the medical school to admit him so he can join her next year...so he's currently enamored of all things New Orleans. He said that the food was good (although a little pricey by his standards) and the live jazz better.

                                                  Of course, Mom hopes he does make it to Tulane....because then of course I will have an excuse to visit!

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: janetofreno

                                                    thanks for the report back. I could see Angeline's being a good splurge choice for a college student: food can be good if one orders right, and it is more upscale than somewhere like Vik's, but still casual and reasonable. (and of course the music helps)

                                                    The Salvadorean place was probably Platano, on University? I think it might be the only Salvadorean restaurant in Berkeley. Here is an old thread, with some fairly recent updates:


                                                    He didn't by any chance try the albondigas did he? :-


                                                    Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen
                                                    2261 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                                    Cafe Platano
                                                    2042 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                                      On College Avenue between Ashby and Webster and near Holy Land is Gordo's. Often with lines out the door, it is a favorite.. Their super burrito is big and affordable. Take the AC Transit line 51 (catch at Telegraph and Durant) and get off at Ashby and College (same bus will take you right back to campus area). And if he sees a line at a place called Ici -- it's worth the wait for amazing ice cream (albeit not cheap!)

                                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                                        Yes, Platano WAS the Salvadorean place. I remember thinking something like "yuk, they must use a lot of bananas" when he finally remembered the name....:-). I'll have to ask him what he ate.....Not sure why I thought he said it was on the south side if its on University.

                                                        1. re: janetofreno

                                                          it IS on the south side of University. I've only been there once, but what we had was great.

                                                          1. re: janetofreno

                                                            Further update...no, he didn't try the albondigas...But I learned today (over a delicious Vietnamese lunch in Reno at a place he suggested; so glad my sons are branching out in the culinary sense...) that the grad student he went to Berkeley with is from El Salvador...which explains why/how they managed to find the only Salvadorean place in Berkeley. And his friend did give the place a thumbs up, so that's a good sign......

                                                            1. re: janetofreno

                                                              The pupusas at Platano are the best I've had, which makes it somewhat shocking that the curtido is tasteless. I wonder if they keep the real stuff in back for their salvadoreño cusomers?

                                                              1. re: janetofreno

                                                                There's actually another Salvadoran place on San Pablo, Maiz