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Suggestions on cafes and restaurants in North Berkeley/berkeley Hills area

  • b

Just joined Chowhound so I'm not too sure if this kind of general post and query is encouraged. But here goes. We're Australians who like good food and wine will be spending six months at CAL and will be living in Santa Barbara Rd near Marin Avenue. I don't know this area at all. Any suggestions on good places to eat within reasonable walking distance or that can be reached by bus in 10-15 minutes? We will be trying to avoid driving (but may not be successful!). We'll be grateful for any help and tips.

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  1. Cafe Meridian on Colusa Circle is very nice for brunch or dinner--walk straight down Marin to Solano, down one more block to Colusa, turn R and head on out to the Circle--a good walk. Inn Kensington is nice too--to fountain and then R on Arlington. At the top of Solano Ave, an easy walk, is Jerusalem Organic Kitchen for tasty and inexpensive Middle Eastern. Cactus is just a bit further for Mexican, but I prefer Taqueria Talavera, further down Solano. (Actually, Solano is rife with acceptable and more than acceptable restaurants, not that long a walk from where you live: Rivoli--reservations, expensive, upscale, Curry Cafe--cheap Pakistani, Khana Peena and Ajanta, not as cheap Indian, down near the bottom China Village for great Szechuan.) If you walk down Marin to the fountain and then down fountain walk to Henry and continue on, Henry becomes Shattuck and you can reach Cesar easily for small plates and a great hangout for drinks. Chez Panisse is right near as is the Epicurious Garden (mixed reviews) and Saul's really not very good deli. But Masse's pastries are wonderful (right near the Black Oak Bookstore) and the CheeseBoard has great breads and cheese. More?

    1 Reply
    1. re: rccola

      Also on Colusa Circle is Kensington Circus, a British pub. Decent fish and chips and family friendly.

    2. Uh, for some reason my reply doesn't show up. For great produce, walk down Marin to Colusa, make a L (cross Marin CAUTIOUSLY) go to Hopkins and make a R to the Monterey Market. Also, Gioia, my favorite pizza is there. Pretty much eat-out only. Also a fish market there.

      1. You are in a short bus ride away from almost everything good in Berkeley.

        In that Google map the streets you want to pay attention to are Solano, Hopkins and Shattuck.

        Shattuck will take you to the Gourmet Ghetto, home of Chez Panisse. There is an excellent cheeseshop called The Cheeseboard which also has a great California Pizza shop. Gregoire is another very good stop in this area.

        Solano has a ton of good restaurants. Click on links for websites and more info

        Of those some good choices
        Ajanta (Cal-Indian), China Village (one of the best Chinese restaurants), Vanessa's Bistro (Cal-Vietnames), Fonda (great Spanish/Mexican small plates), Sunnyside Cafe (great breakfast), Lola's (great take-out roast chicken and desserts), Rivoli (Cal-Med


        La Farine is a good bakery on that street. Some of these places are further down San Pablo than others.

        Colusa takes you to Kensington which some nice small restaurants and Semifreddi bakery

        Hopkins takes you to the area around Monterrey Market, a very good produce market. There's a great fish market there. Further down is Lalimes (cal-cuisine), and Berkeley Bagel.

        Other areas near you that you should look into with a car ... San Pablo Avenue, Fourth Street, College Avenue, Pacific East Mall, Berkeley Bowl (great market), the Berkeley Farmers markets (Tues, Thurs & Fri).

        If you miss Australian food you can go down Telegraph where a fellow Australian runs Bakesale Betty's. She makes great lamingtons and sticky date pudditng.

        In SF, chef, Luke Mangan, owner of Glass Brasserie in Sydney opened South Food and Wine Bar.

        So many great places. Hope you post as you discover and try new places.

        5 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          The coffee place across from Monterey Market has decent enough omelettes & scrambles, also the soup is often good (ymmv). It's a hangout.


            1. re: Glencora

              but the pizza right at Gioia is good imo.

              Gioia Pizzeria
              1586 Hopkins St, Berkeley, CA 94707

            2. re: ShepherdBGoode

              That's Espresso Roma. They have a few other cafes too including the French Hotel Cafe next across from Chez Panisse. In the 90's it was one of my favorte places for a latte. The milk was so rich. They always had great fresh-squeezed juice.

              I was wondering about the breakfast food at the Hopkins location. They carry cheese puffs from FatApples and some Acme baked goods.

            3. I live about three blocks away....it's a lovely, lovely neighborhood but not great for walking unless you're in very good shape. Extremely steep terrain -- uphill on the way home. Just so you know that.
              Otherwise, these are all great suggestions, and basically anything you see on Chowhound described as being on or near Solano Avenue is nearby.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Nina

                Also, your experience may vary but on my block, the narrowness of the street means that longtime locals are accustomed to parking their cars halfway up on the sidewalk.... forcing the pedestrians to take their chances in the middle of the street. The bus service is pretty decent though, either on Spruce or Euclid.

              2. Forget walking down Marin to get to Solano. Walk down Indian Rock to the rock and take the path on the right straight down to the head of Solano.

                3 Replies
                1. re: wolfe

                  That would be lovely but crossing Arlington can be suicidal. People whip around it and it's hard to see a pedestrian coming up the little steps. Not much margin for error.

                  1. re: rccola

                    There are 3 clearly marked crosswalks in a row. Indian Rock Walk is in the middle. The sight lines are clear. Look both ways before you cross. With the little margin for error mentality I would never cross the street in San Francisco, even at a light.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      Well, there is an advantage in no MUNI drivers.

                2. One of Berkeley's major restaurant districts is at the top of Solano. The only restaurants I'd go across town for are Rivoli (Cal-Italian), China Village (some of the best and least Americanized Sichuan in the Bay Area), and Fonda Solano (sort of an upscale bar with good pan-Latin small plates), all a fair schlep down the street.

                  The schwarema at Jerusalem is great though some of the other stuff I've had there was eh. You can eat well at Ajanta (moderately upscale Indian) if you order right, though some of the food is way too Americanized for me.

                  Unfortunately the area suffers from upscale-demographics syndrome, so prices tend to be relatively high, quality good but not the best, and most of the ethnic food Americanized.

                  If you like to walk, you should pick up a Berkeley's Pathways map at a local bookstore, there are lots of footpaths in that neighborhood that don't show up on street maps. There are much more pleasant pedestrian routes down the hill than straight down Marin, which is the main automobile artery for much of the Berkeley hills.

                  1. Why has no one mentioned Zachary's?

                    Zachary's Chicago Pizza
                    1853 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: wolfe

                      You are just a trouble maker, aren't you (g).The OP should read some of the links on the Place record to see if the long and impassioned arguments convince them one way or another.

                      1. re: rworange

                        Hey Domino's is the largest pizza franchise in Australia, even Zachery's has to be an improvement.

                        1. re: wolfe

                          Pretty much opinions in the Places links have endlessly ... endlessly covered Zachery's. Some like it, some don't like a few other restaurants where there are strong feelings.

                      2. re: wolfe

                        It's arguably worth trying their stuffed deep-dish once just to have an informed opinion. The thin-crust (really more like medium) is OK, sort of like Cheese Board's.

                      3. Thanks very much to all the posters so far. Those comments and suggestions are really very helpful! And we will be sure to post our own comments and suggestions. BTW - most aussies back home buy their pizzas from restaurants that are NOT part of the big chains. What I fear we will miss (as we live in melbourne, Victoria) is the plentyful availability of BYo (Bring Your Own bottle) restaurants which can make consuming wine with food so much cheaper. But maybe that custom is invading SF?

                        2 Replies
                          1. re: bcarr

                            Usually there is a corkage fee in SF. However, if you visit Napa, here's some ideas

                            You might keep an eye on this thread for Felini to see if people think it is any good. They waive corkage on Tuesday. On Monday all bottles of wine are $12