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

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"?

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  1. 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

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

      1. re: rworange

        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

          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

            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.

      2. 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. 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

            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

              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

                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

                  Westbrae is much different than it was back then.

                  1. re: wally

                    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

                      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. 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. 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

                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. 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

                  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

                    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

                      >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

                        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

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

                          http://articles.latimes.com/2008/sep/...

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

                          1. re: avent

                            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

                              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

                          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

                            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

                          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

                          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

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

                            1. re: Agent 510

                              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

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

                                1. re: ML8000

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

                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                      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

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

                                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                          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

                                            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

                                              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

                                        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

                                          Here's a shot of the new Bowl:

                                          http://www.flickr.com/photos/ml_kap/3...

                                          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

                                            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

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

                              2. Adding a link.

                                -----
                                Berkeley Bowl
                                2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                                1. 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. 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

                                      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

                                        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

                                          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

                                            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

                                              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

                                                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

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

                                                  1. re: walker

                                                    Ashby exit, see below for location...

                                                    -----
                                                    Berkeley Bowl West
                                                    920 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA

                                                    1. re: Agent 510

                                                      Is it the old Whole Earth Access location?

                                                      1. re: kc72

                                                        >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

                                                      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

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

                                            3. 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. 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

                                                  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

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

                                                  2. re: EdwardAdams

                                                    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

                                                      Mexican takeout - who/what/where?

                                                      1. re: sydthekyd

                                                        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

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

                                                          1. re: sydthekyd

                                                            Dec 2007 they were $1.25
                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/470390

                                                            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. 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

                                                      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
                                                      http://www.chow.com/general_topics_di......

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

                                                    2. 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

                                                        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. 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

                                                          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

                                                            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

                                                              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

                                                                "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

                                                                  It is not open this time of year, but have you been to Perry Farms in Fremont?
                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/40010

                                                                  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

                                                                    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

                                                                      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

                                                                      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. 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

                                                                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.

                                                                Enjoy!

                                                                1. re: Mission

                                                                  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

                                                                    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

                                                                      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. 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. 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. 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. 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

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

                                                                        2. 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

                                                                            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
                                                                            www.naturalchefshoshana.blogspot.com