HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Are you making a specialty food? Tell us about it

Do you travel over 10 miles to shop at Berkeley Bowl?

Agent 510 Jan 5, 2009 10:48 AM

I'm just curious as to what specifically draws people to the Berkeley Bowl from all over the Bay Area, so I'm throwing this out for discussion. It's a great store, but it's also not the easiest place to park, get in and out, etc. Is there a specific item (or even just a general reason) that draws you to the Bowl?

I used to live within a 10 minute walk of the Bowl. It's a great store, I don't dispute that for a minute. Yet I'm a little surprised its offerings haven't been duplicated elsewhere around the Bay.

Also, does anyone know the status of the new "West Berkeley Bowl"?

  1. h
    Homegrown Jun 5, 2009 07:43 PM

    Since we were in the Oakland/Berkeley area today, we stopped in to see the new Berkeley Bowl on Heinz. Didn't realize it just opened yesterday. Lots of fresh produce, beautiful fish and meat departments, deli and mouth watering pastries, a parking garage, with an elavator to the store, a cafe which is not in full operation yet, and lots of people walking around with clip boards to assist you. I think they were employees in training. No hassle with parking at all. A lovely store.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Homegrown
      shoshanad Jun 19, 2009 11:43 PM

      Yes, the new market is phenomenal!!! It has two separate produce departments... one conventional and one organic, a cafe, plenty of parking, etc... And the best part for me is it is only one block from my culinary school where I'm studying to be a Natural Chef. Couldn't have a better resource for ingredients close at hand.

      Chef Shosh

    2. h
      himbeer May 17, 2009 12:08 AM

      The last time I went to the Berkeley Bowl was back when a Spare the Air Day meant free public transit. I like the variety. Going to a grocery store is more exciting for me than a Rolling Stones concert.

      Too crowded inside and too high a percentage of self-centered patrons. But although I preferred the old funky BB and still funky Monterey Market, I'd love BB to open a store in San Fran. Or Ranch 99.

      2 Replies
      1. re: himbeer
        Robert Lauriston May 17, 2009 11:26 AM

        Pacific Super is similar to 99 Ranch. Not as good.


        1. re: himbeer
          wolfe May 17, 2009 11:32 AM

          MM was funkier when it was across the street where Magnani is now.

        2. Robert Lauriston May 16, 2009 01:27 PM

          Re the above thread, the Oregon store is 44,000 square feet. The Heinz store is 91,000sf, and the grocery portion is 55,000.

          Traffic's likely to be a nightmare as none of the traffic lights, turn lanes, etc. determined to be necessary by the EIR and required by the permit are in place. The intersections around there are already a mess at rush hour.

          1. c
            charliemyboy May 15, 2009 10:23 PM

            The best thing about BB is selection-- even if you can't get it anywhere else BB may have it.

            I am making Thai soup (tom kha gai) for a potluck this weekend and wanted to use some fresno peppers, mostly for their color. I couldn't find any on the Peninsula or in the Clement St. markets I went to for other Thai ingredients, and feeling stubborn I drove from Clement over to BB (totally environmentally irresponsible, I admit). Sure enough they had it, at $7.50/lb! Turns out fresno peppers have been so scarce recently they either can't get them at all or have to choose between offering at a very high price or not at all. I only needed about $2 worth for my dish (less than the gas bill for the drive from SF) so I was happy.

            There was also no line! (Yesterday about 1pm). And a very nice woman customer helped me choose a goat cheese. So entranced was I with BB's wonderfulness that I bought a cauliflower and pea masala dish from the deli without asking for a taste. Though I had never previously tasted an Indian-style dish with cauliflower that I didn't like, this dish reminded me of Chef Boyardee from my youth. But I did get the peppers.

            1. Ruth Lafler May 13, 2009 09:16 PM

              Yup. Alice Waters didn't really start anything -- she was the product of the food-related movements already going on.

              And really, if I see one more person whining about parking at the Bowl I'm going to be sick. If the lot is a nightmare (which it often is), park on the street! I've never had to park more than a block away, and you can take your cart all the way to your car if you need to.

              1. drmimi May 13, 2009 06:02 PM

                I have a friend who has driven in from MODESTO (65 miles) to go to the Berkeley Bowl for many years. When I lived in Modesto I would have her get me special items (goat cheese, bulk spices). Now that I am in Sonoma county, the need to go to Berkeley Bowl is not as pressing. But when I am in the East Bay I do make a side trip. It is a way cool place.

                4 Replies
                1. re: drmimi
                  Mission May 13, 2009 07:17 PM

                  Berkeley Bowl....Yuck!

                  I don't drive 10 Blocks to that place.

                  Just thinking about it gives me a headache and a bad taste in my mouth.

                  BB has been surpassed my many other fine foodie shopping venues in The Eastbay.


                  1. re: Mission
                    rworange May 13, 2009 09:21 PM

                    I'd be interested to know exactly where those East Bay shopping venues are. One would hope you are not speaking about Whole Foods because ... seriously ...

                    1. re: rworange
                      Robert Lauriston May 15, 2009 12:45 PM

                      The Bowl's balance of quality, reasonable prices, and variety would be hard to beat, and the fish department is first-rate.

                      On the other hand, the produce, cheese, and olives at the Bowl are a big step down from the farmers market and Cheese Board. Same goes to a lesser extent for meat and bread compared with Indus / Cafe Rouge and direct from Acme.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        rworange May 15, 2009 01:03 PM

                        Well, yes for the produce that is available locally. It would be rare that I'd buy stone fruit or tomatoes at the Bowl in-season other than some variety I haven't seen elsewhere.

                        However, because they are not restricted to local, the rest is what I go for and that is quite the selection. In general, BB does better citrus (variety-wise) than the farmers markets. Also, I'm more a fan of Texas citrus than California citrus with few exceptions.

                2. hohokam Jan 10, 2009 07:16 AM

                  When I lived in Richmond, I was right at 10 miles away from the Bowl, and I shopped there weekly. The produce section has always been a huge draw, of course, but for me, the Bowl has been the closest thing to a one-stop shopping destination I've ever had access to. Sure, they don't always have everything I want, but no other place even comes close for me.

                  As far as the parking situation goes, I learned pretty quickly that I could minimize stress by avoiding the lot altogether. I never had a problem finding street parking within a couple of blocks (usually east or south) of the store. I know this might not be a good option for people who have mobility problems or kids in tow, but it worked for me. The only struggle I recall was the struggle to find a shady spot to park when the dog was in the car. :-)

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: hohokam
                    Agent 510 Jan 10, 2009 01:34 PM

                    For the record, I mentioned "10 miles" in my original post because that excludes SF (sort of)...other than that, I could just as easily have said "a long way".

                    1. re: Agent 510
                      Bigshadetree Jan 11, 2009 04:42 AM

                      The first few months after I moved to Benicia I would still go to Berkeley Bowl (15 years ago) but now I rely more on Farmer's Markets. I still go to Tokyo Fish, the Cheese Board and Masses - but have not felt the need to fight the parking at the Bowl.

                      1. re: Bigshadetree
                        bayareatiger Jan 12, 2009 09:35 PM

                        Being fresh fruit and veggie freaks my bride and I discovered BB 7 years ago, and given the lack of good grocery (read 'non-chain') stores locally (we live in Fremont), we decided to give it a try. We enjoy our trips to the Farmers Market downtown (or at Oakland Grand Lake) on Saturday AM, then lunch locally in Berkeley/Oakland, thanks to all the great Chow tips offered here over the years. Y'all ROCK. Then it'soff to the Bowl, where we load our cold bags that we pack with our goodies. We ALWAYS park on the street, a lot less hassle. I have always been amazed how much longer the produce from BB lasts in the fridge than most grocery stores. Must admit that being no big fan of large crowds that it takes a little BB zen when you go into the place. We usually go every other week, sometimes weekly during the summer. Yeah, we're are like most of y'all here, we're foodies too. Looking forward to the new store and MORE goodies!

                        1. re: bayareatiger
                          Agent 510 Jan 13, 2009 07:56 AM

                          "I have always been amazed how much longer the produce from BB lasts in the fridge than most grocery stores."

                          True dat. That's one thing I've consistently noticed about BB. It's a nice change from Safeway...stuff I buy from there seems to go bad in minutes.

                          1. re: bayareatiger
                            rworange Jan 13, 2009 08:50 AM

                            It is not open this time of year, but have you been to Perry Farms in Fremont?

                            They have unusual heirlooms not ususally seen. They won't replace BB, but are a nice supplement.

                            Speaking of unusual, my different thing to buy this week at BB was young fresh ginger from Fiji. it looked very pretty with a pink blush. Haven't tried it yet though.

                            As to supermarket produce, it is all that water they spray it with that kills it. It looks fresh when you buy it, but then rots out quickly at home. Funny, as much ask I go to BB, I can't remember if they spray water on the fruit. If they do, it is not as aggressive as supermarkets.

                            1. re: rworange
                              walker Jan 13, 2009 08:57 AM

                              Both MM and BB don't spray. Since Andronico's remodel, the spraying of water on the veggies is extreme and I don't buy them. I complained to mgt but nothing changed. Bryan's just remodeled the big store, looks nice but...lots of spraying, too. Cal-Mart does not spray.

                              1. re: walker
                                Ruth Lafler Jan 13, 2009 09:15 AM

                                I think BB does some spraying of the greens in the cases against the side and back walls, but of course not all the freestanding bins.

                                BB has, among other things, a huge turnover, so stuff doesn't sit long, doesn't need to be sprayed and is generally fresher.

                              2. re: rworange
                                bayareatiger Jan 16, 2009 08:15 AM

                                We love Perry Farms too, but they don't have quite the diversity that BB has, and, as you mentioned, they're not even open this time of year . We had a lot of luck there this past year with collards and some of the other organic grown on site produce grown there. I don't think that BB sprays as much as conventional supermarkets. mebbe that's their secret.

                      2. m
                        mychineseauntie Jan 7, 2009 08:55 AM

                        i think the quality for the low prices and big turnover is BB biggest draw for me to drive more then 14 miles ..i also time my visits for slow periods and always find parking .i never go on weekends then i use farmers markets . also a great money saver is the clearence shelves where they bag ready ripe fruits and veggies..great find for your budget and easy way to try exotics you would never buy. i also bring my overseas guests there and watch their amazement.they come from england, germany and hong kong but the funniest comment was from my friend from boston...''youse guys like fruits and veggies dont youse''long live berkeley bowl~KC

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mychineseauntie
                          Stephanie Wong Jan 7, 2009 04:19 PM

                          One of my husband's former customers took her mother from Russia to BB. The mom promptly burst into tears at the abundance and variety of fresh produce available to "just" the general populace (she realized how deprived she had been).

                        2. farmersdaughter Jan 7, 2009 07:56 AM

                          Question for BB shoppers - is it *worth* going there from SF? What specifically is at the Bowl that is not at Rainbow Grocery combined with the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market and a trip to Whole Foods on occasion? I've never been to the Bowl because I wasn't sure there was something there that I am missing, but would love to know if I should check it out.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: farmersdaughter
                            rworange Jan 7, 2009 08:10 AM

                            As someone who made that treck from SF weekly for over a decade and still shopped at Ferry Plaza every Saturday ... sorry, I'm just not a Rainbow Fan ... and Whole Foods ... are you kidding? ... If you go to FP, there is no reason to buy produce there ... or much of anything ... it was where I went mainly for the hot food deli because of an intense work schedule ...

                            Anyway ...

                            The produce selection is just so much better and less expensive than anywhere else. Period.

                            Also it is in one place.

                            This time of year, for example, FP has some citrus, but it is not extensive. Whole Foods has less and is more expensive than FP. I could knock myself out and make ANOTHER trip to Alamany for the great citrus vendor there ... yet, still ... I won't get the maybe 30 varieties of citrus I'll find and Berkeley Bowl.

                            Also, with farmers markets I have to limit my shopping to specific hours and days. And for all the bitching on the board ... Berkeley Bowl does have a damn parking lot ... something has really cut into my FP shopping ... sorry ... I'm not shlepping a few blocks to parking, giving my pricy produce to a veggie valet to squish, or tugging around one of those absurd carts like a yuppie bag woman. Rainbow's parking is also quite limited which probably was another factor why I never became a fan ... and it just seems icky to me. Berkeley Bowl takes better care of the store.

                            That being said, I don't buy tomatoes or stone fruit often at Berkeley Bowl. The farmers markets just do a better job. However, I will pick up varieties that the farmers markets don't provide. Berkeley Bowl also does a good job on melons and the prices are good. Mangoes, papayay, pineapple .. There are a half dozen varieties of each at the least ... and they have occasional guest varieties I've never had elsewhere. There was this amazing Tahitian low acid pineapple that I must have bought over a decade ago ... never saw it since which is a shame because I remember the taste and fragrance to this day.

                            The different stuff that maybe I can run around to a bunch of ethnic markets to find or the items I've never seen anywhere else such as water caltrops

                            If you ever see the baby kiwis ... wonderful. There's is always some new thing at Berkeley Bowl expanding my produce horizon.

                          2. e
                            EdwardAdams Jan 7, 2009 07:46 AM

                            I used to go at the old location because of the open butcher and have gone one time since. Prices went through the roof when they changed management at the time of the move. With Monterey Market close at hand along with the adjacent Country Cheese, why bother.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: EdwardAdams
                              Ruth Lafler Jan 7, 2009 08:50 AM

                              What change in management? As far as I know, BB is still run by the same family. They did have to change some things about the way the store is run: it's bigger and it has more departments.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                EdwardAdams Jan 7, 2009 09:00 AM

                                In the old location the meat department was a sublease operation. Now it is directly under the store's management.

                              2. re: EdwardAdams
                                wolfe Jan 7, 2009 01:38 PM

                                Also with chicken, meat, deli, Mexican and Chinese takeout, bakery, fish and pizza to Gioia all on the same corner as MM.

                                1. re: wolfe
                                  sydthekyd Jan 8, 2009 09:53 AM

                                  Mexican takeout - who/what/where?

                                  1. re: sydthekyd
                                    Glencora Jan 8, 2009 09:59 AM

                                    That had me scratching my head, too -- unless he means the tamales at Magnani's. They're pretty good, but I usually get a pork bun from Lily's for the walk home. Don't care for Gioia's pizza. Still, it's a nice block.

                                    1. re: Glencora
                                      sydthekyd Jan 8, 2009 10:02 AM

                                      Do you know how much the tamales are, what kind they have and who makes them?

                                      1. re: sydthekyd
                                        rworange Jan 8, 2009 10:27 AM

                                        Dec 2007 they were $1.25

                                        Cheese and peppers, chicken, pork

                                        They are made in-house

                                        I think the have a few other Mexican items at the steam table if you hit it at the right time.

                              3. toitoi Jan 6, 2009 06:28 PM

                                I came all the way from Los Angeles to visit the Berkeley Bowl I took BART from the Powell Street station. We arrived in Berkely, we walked, and lo and behold, on the 26th of December it was closed. Oh, well, maybe next time.

                                1. MollyGee Jan 5, 2009 07:35 PM

                                  It's my closest store, but I also like that I can get a (I'll keep it seasonal here) decent crunchy apple and that the produce guys always know which oranges are best and they're always right and are happy to let you try a sample. I absolutely appreciate the bulk spices - yeehaw: 75 cents and I've got enough crushed red pepper to last a year! I like seeing the familiar faces of the people who regularly shop there. I like chatting in line with amenable folks.

                                  It's funny because I think a lot of the bad 'tude about the Bowl is the result of the bad-attitude holders shopping in a place in which they are not entirely familiar. I always feel weird and unwelcome when I go to Whole Foods, say, or Andonico's or Safeway. I don't know instantly where everything is, I don't know which checkers are slow and grumpy, the other shoppers move in unexpected patterns (they probably move more quickly because they know where stuff is, but maybe it's that I'm not attuned to the mood of the place).

                                  This is definitely not the store to randomly stop in to pick up a quart of milk and a bunch of bananas, though I often do because it is proximate. But, really, you need a plan.

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: MollyGee
                                    Mission Jan 5, 2009 08:13 PM

                                    I don't fancy the Berkeley Bowl, for many ,many reasons.

                                    And I live less than 3 miles away.

                                    I think I will start another thread for people that have the same opinion.

                                    1. re: Mission
                                      MollyGee Jan 6, 2009 12:06 PM

                                      Right. What I was really referring to is frequent comments about how horrible the people who shop at the Berkeley Bowl are (as if they are a uniform group). Specifically, one person in this thread commented upon how "entitled" the shoppers seem. There's plenty of actual reasons to dislike the BB. So...where's that promised thread?

                                      1. re: MollyGee
                                        Ruth Lafler Jan 6, 2009 12:12 PM

                                        I've never thought of shoppers at the Bowl as being entitled, which to me means bossy and demanding (as in, "entitled" to special treatment).

                                        The shoppers at the Bowl are very Berkeley (even the ones who don't live there): they tend to have strong opinions about what's "right" or "politically correct" but I don't think of that as being entitled. They certainly aren't "entitled" in the sense of being wealthy -- people of all ages and income brackets shop at the Bowl -- the "entitled" crowd is far more likely to shop at the Whole Foods just up Ashby.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                          JasmineG Jan 6, 2009 03:51 PM

                                          I don't think of shoppers at the Bowl as entitled, but I am also one of the people who doesn't like to shop there, and it's because of the fellow shoppers, not the parking or the layout of the store. I find that the Bowl tends to have the largest group of just rude people shopping there that I've ever encountered -- I can see how people would describe that as "entitled" though I would just describe it as self centered more than anything else. I love the range of products that they have there, and it's such a great one stop shop for things, but sometimes (not always) it's just an unpleasant shopping experience, so for that reason that I go there pretty infrequently.

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                            ML8000 Jan 6, 2009 04:18 PM

                                            A dozen+ people in a dozen+ lines and a store packed to the gills will produce irritable people, who can be mistaken for "entitled". There's a mania with crowds and crowded places. I think most just want to get out of there ASAP when it's crowded crazy.

                                            Conversely, when BB isn't crowded, it's so nice...and fast. When I lived a few blocks away I'd often get the afternoon off and I'd go there at 2-3 p.m. on a summer day and it was great. You could take your time and when it's not busy the checkers are nicer and pleasant. Not having an endless line will do that.

                                            Any way, hopefully the new store lessens the load. That would be nice.

                                            1. re: ML8000
                                              Agent 510 Jan 6, 2009 05:38 PM

                                              That's my hope too, that the new store will siphon away enough shoppers that the old one will become less crowded. Not that I'll notice, because I'll be at the new one!

                                              I wonder if the opening of the new one will also split up BB's customer base. I can see the old one keeping the regulars, the continuity-valuing old-timers and that breed of Berkeley local who likes to rebel against conventional wisdom that says the newer, bigger store is the place to be....while the new store attracts the out-of-towners (it's right off the freeway!) as well as people who like BB's food but aren't so crazy about the experience.

                                              1. re: Agent 510
                                                walker Jan 6, 2009 07:04 PM

                                                What's the exit and address of the new one, please?

                                                1. re: walker
                                                  Agent 510 Jan 6, 2009 08:16 PM

                                                  Ashby exit, see below for location...

                                                  Berkeley Bowl West
                                                  920 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA

                                                  1. re: Agent 510
                                                    kc72 Jan 6, 2009 08:29 PM

                                                    Is it the old Whole Earth Access location?

                                                    1. re: kc72
                                                      Chuckles the Clone Jan 10, 2009 04:56 PM

                                                      >Is it the old Whole Earth Access location?

                                                      No. That's now a Grainger. The new Bowl is much bigger and on what has been for many years a vacant lot. It's almost directly underneath the OSH watertower that you can see from most places around there.

                                                  2. re: walker
                                                    milklady Jan 6, 2009 08:28 PM

                                                    It's just two blocks from the Ashby freeway exit, on Heinz west of San Pablo. But it's not open yet!

                                          2. re: Mission
                                            Scott M Jan 6, 2009 12:14 PM

                                            So basically you would travel over 10 miles in order to avoid shoppping at Berkeley Bowl.

                                            1. re: Mission
                                              sydthekyd Jan 6, 2009 04:10 PM

                                              The owners?

                                          3. t
                                            TerriL Jan 5, 2009 07:11 PM

                                            I live in Marin and try to go whenever I'm nearby, mainly for the bulk section. I do a lot of baking and confectionery, and they have bulk maple syrup, plus a lot of hard-to-find flours and grains all in one place. I usually combine it with a stop at Crixa.

                                            1. farmersdaughter Jan 5, 2009 02:14 PM

                                              Adding a link.

                                              Berkeley Bowl
                                              2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                                              1. a
                                                adrienne156 Jan 5, 2009 01:59 PM

                                                It is 10 miles for me and yes, I make the schlep about once a month and always for dinner parties I'm throwing, even though the parking lot makes me twitch. Monterey Market is closer, but with Berkeley Bowl I know that I can go to one store and get everything I need. They have absolutely everything, including the international stuff - British in particular - and I know I don't have to question quality especially when it comes to their produce.

                                                I'm deleriously happy about West Berkeley Bowl, but no news.

                                                25 Replies
                                                1. re: adrienne156
                                                  Agent 510 Jan 6, 2009 12:00 PM

                                                  Well, I can answer my own question...a Bowl staffer told me the WBB opening date will probably be in May or June.

                                                  Has anyone heard any details about what's planned for the WBB? At 90,000 sq feet, it's going to be pretty big, so I hope one of the things we can look forward to is "a shopping environment large enough to handle the legions of BB fans from around the Bay"

                                                  1. re: Agent 510
                                                    Stephanie Wong Jan 6, 2009 12:56 PM

                                                    I think in addition to using this location as a retail store, they have also planned to use it to receive, warehouse, & relay goods to the "mother store".

                                                    1. re: Stephanie Wong
                                                      psb Jan 6, 2009 04:01 PM

                                                      >relay goods to the "mother store".
                                                      does that make the origial location the "dowager store"?

                                                      10mi doesnt seem that far in this day and age ... i'm sure many people
                                                      go +10mi to ranch 99s for example or 10mi to get zarachy's pizza [which
                                                      i think is crazy].

                                                      and i agree while the parking lot can be annoying once you get there,
                                                      it's not like you think "man i dont know if want to deal with BB today
                                                      considering it might take me 20min to park" ... compared to say trying
                                                      to find parking in the haight, or the marina, or even south side of berkeley ...
                                                      i mean we're talking 2-3min walk to the store instead of 30seconds.

                                                      re: the entitled ...
                                                      well there are some annoyances with carts, but that seems common
                                                      with any crowded place [like costco] ... but you hear the same complaints
                                                      about whole foods shoppers. there are probably times people get testy
                                                      because of the long lines [keep shopping while in line, go into express
                                                      line with too many things] but lately i havent been going there when it's
                                                      crowded so i none of that is fresh in my mind. by a vast margin the thing that
                                                      bugs me the most are the moron drivers who block traffic waiting for a parking
                                                      spot to open up when there is nobody in sight about to leave ... look you need
                                                      to make another plan, not sit idling in your car in front of the doors for 10min.

                                                      1. re: psb
                                                        psb Jan 6, 2009 04:06 PM

                                                        oh forgive the "post d'escalier" but there is one thing in the "entitlement"
                                                        arena at Berkeley Bowl which does annoy me: the people who believe
                                                        the "do not root around the olive bar with you grubby shopping cart
                                                        fingers" signs do not apply to them. it's not s bad as the guy who was
                                                        pawing through the jelly belly bin [at another store] picking out the
                                                        individual plavors he wanted, but it's pretty disgusting.

                                                        1. re: psb
                                                          avent Jan 9, 2009 09:15 PM

                                                          Re: entitlement,I think it exists. And rumors of it even made their way to the LA Times in September:


                                                          (I love the part about Michael Pollan buying Fruity Pebbles at the Bowl.)

                                                          1. re: avent
                                                            toitoi Jan 10, 2009 10:10 AM

                                                            I live in Los Angeles, and the article in the LATimes is the reason I attempted entry on 26 December. Sorry - Closed. Will try again on another visit.

                                                            1. re: toitoi
                                                              walker Jan 10, 2009 01:12 PM

                                                              When you visit Berkeley Bowl, try to get to Monterey Market (on Hopkins), too. Wonderful produce, wonderful prices. Cleaner than Berkeley Bowl but no meats, limited canned, boxed goods. MM is closed Sundays. (I drive to MM about twice a month from SF.)

                                                        2. re: psb
                                                          TerriL Jan 6, 2009 04:17 PM

                                                          In all the years I've shopped at the Bowl, I've never once used the parking lot. I just drive one block north on Shattuck and avoid the madness.

                                                          1. re: TerriL
                                                            chilihead2006 Jan 8, 2009 08:15 PM

                                                            Our weekly routine is to park near Crixa's to sample their daily offering, and then trundle on over to BB to load up on fruits and veggies. We gladly drive in from San Rafael.

                                                        3. re: Stephanie Wong
                                                          Agent 510 Jan 7, 2009 09:30 AM

                                                          I wonder how big the actual retail portion would be? Hopefully the warehouse portion won't cut into it too much. I like the idea of a mega-sized Berkeley Bowl, though most Berkeley shoppers would probably see the big size as "corporate" and "evil"...

                                                        4. re: Agent 510
                                                          walker Jan 6, 2009 03:40 PM

                                                          I really wish they'd get those narrow green carts that some Whole Foods have. Monterey Mkt needs them badly, too. 2 carts have a very hard time passing in the aisles.

                                                          1. re: Agent 510
                                                            Agent 510 May 13, 2009 04:12 PM

                                                            Update: according to folks at the "mother store" the West Berkeley Bowl is opening June 4!

                                                            1. re: Agent 510
                                                              hohokam May 13, 2009 05:33 PM

                                                              Thanks for the update.

                                                              The new location won't do much to benefit me directly, but maybe it will thin the crowds at Oregon St. store. :-)

                                                              1. re: Agent 510
                                                                ML8000 May 13, 2009 05:41 PM

                                                                Thanks, that's good news. Hopefully it slows things down at the original location.

                                                                1. re: ML8000
                                                                  Chuckles the Clone May 13, 2009 05:59 PM

                                                                  Hopefully they don't close the current location ...

                                                                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                                                                    hohokam May 13, 2009 06:18 PM

                                                                    Do you know something we don't?

                                                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                                                                      ML8000 May 13, 2009 06:45 PM

                                                                      Seriously, do you know something we don't?

                                                                      I hope the current location doesn't close. I-80 during some parts of the day really sucks and that turn onto 7th is going to be hell.

                                                                      1. re: ML8000
                                                                        Chuckles the Clone May 13, 2009 07:24 PM

                                                                        No, I know completely zero. It's just that having two stores so close to each other worries me.

                                                                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                                                                          Ruth Lafler May 13, 2009 08:36 PM

                                                                          They're not *that* close together. Whole Foods is closer, and it hasn't seemed to have had any effect on the Bowl.

                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                            Chuckles the Clone May 13, 2009 10:23 PM

                                                                            Precisely. Whole foods is not their competition. Their only competition is themselves at this point. That's usually a losing proposition.

                                                                            The paranoid part of me was looking at the signs on the new building this evening. "Berkeley Bowl West" in two places in nice brushed metal expensive-looking letters. The odd thing about both signs is how the design of both of them, both different, makes it so the word "west" could be taken off both and the remaining signs would still be nice and symmetric and ok looking.

                                                                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                                                                              adrienne156 May 15, 2009 10:47 AM

                                                                              According to a friend who works for Whole Foods and told me about the new Bowl location way before this post came out (and after being sworn to secrecy), no there hasn't been any talk of closing the first location any time soon if at all.

                                                                              Why you gots to scare people first thing in the morning, yo?

                                                                      2. re: Chuckles the Clone
                                                                        PorkButt May 15, 2009 01:26 PM

                                                                        The battle between the Bowl's owner and the city and West Berkeley residents over the years was covered by the local newspaper.

                                                                        The claim is that the Oregon St. store has inadequate warehouse space so the new store will serve as the main warehouse but will have less retail space than the current store due to concerns about increased traffic.

                                                                        1. re: PorkButt
                                                                          Agent 510 May 15, 2009 01:37 PM

                                                                          Here's a shot of the new Bowl:


                                                                          Makes me wonder what parts of the building are slated for warehouse and retail space. Hopefully the NIMBY crowd didn't get the retail part reduced that much....a small West Berkeley Bowl could turn into just as much of a crowded cluster-you-know-what as the original store.

                                                                          1. re: Agent 510
                                                                            PorkButt May 15, 2009 02:36 PM

                                                                            I think that there was a claim that their customers came mostly from the Berkeley and Oakland areas so the West Berkeley Bowl would serve its relatively less populated area and those who come by freeway.

                                                                            One of the more vocal opponents was a parents group from a nearby French-American school who said their children would be in danger from the increased traffic. (insert your Berkeley Bowl parking lot joke here)

                                                                            1. re: PorkButt
                                                                              adrienne156 May 15, 2009 02:43 PM

                                                                              They were mainly opposed to an entrance to/from the parking lot facing the school.

                                                              2. Scott M Jan 5, 2009 01:31 PM

                                                                Weren't there plans to open a second location? Is that still happening or did the economy postpone that venture?

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Scott M
                                                                  Shane Greenwood Jan 5, 2009 08:47 PM

                                                                  Looks like they are building it next door to the Scharffen Berger factory. We were over there several weeks ago and the people are the chocolate store were telling us about it. Looks like a pretty massive building that will include parking. Not sure on the timing and there weren't any signs up when we were there. But the building looked about half completed.

                                                                2. m
                                                                  ML8000 Jan 5, 2009 11:45 AM

                                                                  I use to live 3 blocks away and it was great. Now I live a 5-10 min drive in the East Bay and go every week to two, sometimes less. More then a 10 min drive is bit much unless you're doing other errants nearby.

                                                                  For me it's not the variety (which is staggering) but the overall quality and price. Of course choice is great but sometimes there's just too much to look at. I have to stay on a strict "don't buy too much" strategy. Besides that, great bread selection, very good meat counter and fish monger. There's better fish and butchers elsewhere but nowhere else will have the combo of produce and quality fish/meat.

                                                                  re: parking and busy hours...I try and go at 7:30 on a tues or weds, rarely crowded.

                                                                  1. singleguychef Jan 5, 2009 11:39 AM

                                                                    I don't own a car so don't have to worry about the parking issue, which is probably the No. 1 deterrent, but I would say I still go to Berkeley Bowl maybe 3-4 times a year, mostly once a season to check out what's different and exotic, and that's mostly in the great produce section.

                                                                    In general, I find the people shopping at the bowl annoying (there's a real sense of entitlement for some reason) and the lines to check out a test in your comfort zone for personal space. I also don't think the workers are all that friendly. Like I said, the produce section is the star and the only reason to go and shop. Otherwise, I avoid it.

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: singleguychef
                                                                      choctastic Jan 7, 2009 06:40 AM

                                                                      Wow, what he said. Esp about the annoying customers with the sense of entitlement (you are in Berkeley after all) and the unfriendly workers.

                                                                      That said, when I was living in Berkeley the last five years, I traveled the three blocks to shop there. Great produce section, pretty nice bulk foods section too. Cheese section is okay in a pinch. Decent milk selection too. Nice selection of beers. Love the bulk spice selection and turnover.

                                                                      Except for the people, I like Berkeley Bowl a lot.

                                                                      1. re: choctastic
                                                                        Xiao Yang Jan 7, 2009 09:58 AM

                                                                        I think it was Herb Caen who invented the term "Berkeley-er than Thou." That may be a persistent characteristic. I wouldn't know, since I've pretty much avoided Berkeley in the last 40 years since my UC days. We did go (slightly) out of our way to go to the Monterey Market and Westbrae Market in the 60s, though.

                                                                        1. re: Xiao Yang
                                                                          Glencora Jan 7, 2009 10:05 AM

                                                                          I think a lot of the "Berkeley" types are really transplants.

                                                                          I like Westbrae, though it's pricey. I didn't know it had been around that long.

                                                                          1. re: Glencora
                                                                            wally Jan 7, 2009 10:27 AM

                                                                            Westbrae is much different than it was back then.

                                                                            1. re: wally
                                                                              Xiao Yang Jan 7, 2009 05:50 PM

                                                                              It was basically a "natural foods" strore in the 60's. Closer to us and less weevily than The Food Mill. I have no idea what it is now, didn't know it was even still around.

                                                                              1. re: Xiao Yang
                                                                                wally Jan 7, 2009 06:24 PM

                                                                                It is still a natural foods store, but it is much less "funky" than it was back then. It also is much more upscale than it was. It is now called Berkeley Natural Foods and there is another in El Cerrito.

                                                                    2. Ruth Lafler Jan 5, 2009 11:23 AM

                                                                      I'm not surprised the offerings haven't been duplicated -- very few markets have the personnel necessary to support a produce section like the Bowl's, which takes dedication, time and skill. And very few markets have a demographic that will make a produce section like the Bowl's worthwhile. One of the reasons that Bowl is successful is that people do come from a distance to shop there, which generates enough volume to support their offerings. Some people come from a relatively short distance, but still farther than, for example, their local Safeway or Whole Foods, and some people come from farther away. I used to travel over 10 miles semi-regularly to shop there until a market with great produce (if not the amazing selection) opened across the street from me. I still go there when I need enough things to make it worthwhile (or when I need at least one thing I can only get at the Bowl or something I *know* I can get at the Bowl and I'm not sure I can get closer, and so I make it a "one-stop" shop).

                                                                      The parking hassles are over-stated, IMHO. I never park in the lot -- I park on the street and always find a spot within a block. Since you can take the carts out of the lot, this isn't much of a hardship.

                                                                      1. rworange Jan 5, 2009 10:59 AM

                                                                        Yep. For decades ... since I first read about it in the Chronicle. At that time I made the treck from SF.

                                                                        >>> its offerings haven't been duplicated elsewhere around the Bay <<<

                                                                        Well, that's the point.

                                                                        I know Monterrey Market has its fans, but really ... not as good for me.

                                                                        Yep, the farmers markets have fresher and better produce, but they don't have the sheer variety and stuff that isn't local.

                                                                        For me, it is mainly the produce. Right now the citrus selection is fantastic. I've introduced myself to all sorts of exotic items there.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: rworange
                                                                          sydthekyd Jan 5, 2009 02:18 PM

                                                                          Monterey Market is the friendly, funky original and I love it!

                                                                          1. re: rworange
                                                                            oakjoan Jan 7, 2009 01:30 PM

                                                                            Yeah, rw! Citrus right now is great at BB. I've been obsessed with using Seville oranges and have been buying them at BB.

                                                                            Re: MM...I do like MM, but the parking's even worse than at the BB and the place even more crowded. I've gotten some great produce there, but have also found wilted greens and mushy mushrooms. This has also happened at BB, but there's such a great selection that you can almost always find something great.

                                                                            In addition, I can do all my shopping (well, most - I do buy Plugra butter and Pavel's Yogurt at TJs cause it's cheaper) at one place which is impossible at MM.

                                                                            I don't know....it seems that folks love it or hate it. My suggestion is to go between 4 and 5 p.m. or even 4:30 and 5. Usually lots of parking and not that crowded. Even if it is crowded, though, the clerks are so efficient (How in the world do they EVER know what each item is so fast?) that the wait's usually not that long.

                                                                            I've been going to BB since it was in the old bowling alley down the street and was little more than a glorified fruit stand. I'll put up with its drawbacks.

                                                                            PS: Dingy? I certainly have never heard that before...or noticed it.

                                                                            PPS: You can buy chicken feet, carcasses, etc. to make soup, which is rarely the case at most markets.

                                                                            1. re: oakjoan
                                                                              JasmineG Jan 7, 2009 06:53 PM

                                                                              When you say "Even if it is crowded, though, the clerks are so efficient..." I feel like you're either shopping at different times than me or in a different store altogether. The main reason that I rarely go to Berkeley Bowl is because a shopping trip there always takes so long, and the slowness of the lines and the clerks is a big reason for that. I can run in and out of both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods in about 15 minutes, including shopping and checkout time, and I've never spent less than 30 minutes at BB, and that's probably a record, it's more like 45 minutes to an hour each time, and that's just a long time to be in the grocery store.

                                                                              I would love it, though, if BB was open longer hours, I would probably go a lot more often if it was open later.

                                                                              1. re: JasmineG
                                                                                Ruth Lafler Jan 7, 2009 07:49 PM

                                                                                All the clerks at TJ's have to do is run the items through the scanner. Most shoppers at the Bowl are buying produce, which means the clerks have to identify each product (which mostly *don't* have the stickers with the product code on them) -- not only what it is, but which of several variations it is -- enter the code and weigh them, which takes more time per item. I think it's amazing that they are as efficient as they are -- half the time the clerks at my local market have to look up the produce in the computer, and they have about one-eighth the number of produce items the Bowl has.

                                                                          Show Hidden Posts