New in Berkeley - seek advice from local hounds
We're new to Berkeley (living in North Berkeley), and would love to hear some advice you may have about eating out in Berkeley, favorite places/dishes in particular restaurants, and the likes.
We've seen a ton of Thai and Japanese places (throughout Berkeley), as well as two Korean places in Telegraph. What are your favorites? Maybe by price, i.e. 1) under 25/30 dlls per person, and 2) above 25/30 dlls per person? (Excluding alcohol etc)
Feel free to pass info on other types of food (we tried some Ethiopian food the other night which we enjoyed, in a little place in Telegraph). We're fairly adventurous eaters (including offal-heavy restaurants), so everything is game.
Thanks so much for your kind advice.
Dude, berkeley is a great place to eat. there are a shitload of great restaurants and food stores.
The Cheeseboard on shattuck- bread, pizza, cheeses
Jayakarta on university- indonesian try nasi padang rice plate (mmm...chicken gizzard sambal)
cafe valparaiso on shattuck- chilean/latino food and awesome empanadas
Arinells on shattuck- great place for slices (pizza)
Berkeley Bowl- best produce in the US no question
Spanish Table on san pablo- spanish and portuguese dry goods, canned/bottled goods, sweets, sausages, cheeses, JAMON SERRANO, cookbooks, and a lot of other stuff
Casa Latina on San Pablo- good panaderia (mexican)
I'm probably forgetting a lot of stuff but explore. a great location for foodies b/c of both upscale and hole in the wall places
I like some of the pizza places they have in Berkeley. Cheeseboard Collective, Gioia Pizzeria, Lanesplitter Pub & Pizza, and Zachary's are very much worth trying. It's pizza so they'd be in the Cheap Eats category.
Someone wrote this week that they were not impressed with China Village, and I suspect that was because they ordered "regular" Chinese dishes and not the Sichuan specialties that make China Village special. There are lots of threads about what to order at China Village -- especially if you like offal. If you're new to this board, you should know that when you click on the places link, the page about the place includes a list of all threads where the restaurant is linked and another list of threads where the restaurant is mentioned.
1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706
Cheese Board -- closed on Mondays, check website for its daily pizza
La Farine Bakery -- good baguettes, fantastic morning buns (especially the savory ones)
Jupiter -- beer & pizza, sit outside when weather permits
Gregoire -- French take-out; make sure to get the potato puffs
Angeline's -- Southern/Cajun/Creole; make sure to get the hush puppies
A Cote -- tapas with great alcohol selection
Wood Tavern -- always crowded, but so worth it
(I'm a college student so my idea of "cheap" and "not cheap" might be a bit skewed; also, I realize I ventured into the Oakland Rockridge area a bit)
I moved to the North Berkeley area nearly 3 years ago. There is such a cornucopia of good food here, within a short time, what you used to consider good will soon be ordinary, and you won’t appreciate how generally good things are until you travel elsewhere. After awhile, you’ll get into a pattern of regular favorites, with a new place thrown in from time to time. It is impossible to eat everywhere, especially if you also like to cook. I will try and limit this post to places Gilman and north, and keep places I don’t like out of this particular post. I'm not including Gourmet Ghetto in this post.
Vanessa’s Bistro. This is my favorite place in the ‘hood. VN small plates, not particularly traditional, but very good, bright flavors, and a nice full bar (not too common around here – many places have beer/wine only). Never a bad meal, some exceptional dishes. Not cheap.
Lalimes. This is my “go to” nice dinner. Solid meat and fish dishes, with a nice and reasonable wine list. Some like Rivoli better, but I like Lalimes better. They also have bar seating if you just want something light, or are dining alone, and the service is generally very pleasant. Desserts are generally very good, too. Not cheap.
Rivoli. This would be the reviewers “best place” around, and it is very good, but I just like Lalimes better. Either will provide you with a nice dinner where you could go for a special occasion, or in clean jeans and a shirt with no holes. Wine/beer only. A nice list. Not cheap.
Tangerine. A nice lunch spot – mostly take out, with 4 stools. Fresh salads, frittata, soup, salmon, chicken, sandwiches. If you feel you’ve been eating too much or too much crap, this is a good detox lunch. The owner/cook is also about as nice a guy as you’ll ever meet around here. He also makes espresso-based drinks if you don’t want chain coffee. Cheap
Sabuy Sabuy. My favorite Thai around here. Most Thai has been “ok” to “not bad.” This place shines. When Bert, the owner, is there, just ask him for suggestions – I go there about twice a month, and I doubt I’ve really looked at the menu more than twice, both when he wasn’t there. If you like spicy (and not “Solano Spicy” which is pretty bland), he’ll make it just how you want it. And he’ll remember. Dishes are creative and not always traditional. Cheap-ish.
Ruen Pair. This would be the second Thai choice for me. But Sabuy Sabuy really has the extra “something” including the personal touch that means I don’t go back to Ruen Pair (but still would expect it to be good). Cheap-ish.
Nizza La Bella. I like the place. I think it costs too much. I’d go more often if it cost a little less. Their wood fired pizzas are really good, and the steak frites are good, too. (Note that this is in Albany, which allows the wood oven). They also make a mean Mac & Cheese. Not cheap.
T-Rex. For local BBQ, it isn’t bad at all. Their cornbread is incredibly good (for dessert). They have a weeknight happy hour 3-6pm which is alright. I’ve had so much marginal to bad BBQ that I’ve decided T-Rex gives me my local fix and it satisfies me enough, in a clean location that I can walk to, that I rarely go elsewhere anymore. Fair prices
Jimmy Beans. I’ve only been there a couple of times, but I really enjoy their breakfast. It just tastes fresh. Nothing original or amazing, but a good place to eat.
Fonda. This is the only “late night” (close after midnight) place in these parts. The food is very good. However, it is one of those places that you think “are we full?” when you really aren’t and your small plates and drinks are already in the $75 range, and you still need more food. They have a happy hour starting at 9pm, which is pretty decent. Not cheap, until the limited special 9pm menu. (The regular menu is also available.)
Lanesplitter Pizza – the to-go only one – where else can you get a quality large cheese pizza for $10? (Pick-up only). The pizzas are very good.
Gioia Pizzeria – Their pizza is also very good. I find it best when it first comes out, as opposed to a reheated slice. Pizza, however, is so subjective, you’ll really have to try them yourself. I’m not mentioning Zachary’s for the reasons at the top of my post.
Monterey Market – the best produce store around. Period. Besides, Berkeley Bowl isn’t in my geographic perameter for this post.
Zaki Kabab House – This is a new gem, open only a few months. They cleaned up a “lemon” location and are full, with happy people. Excellent rotisserie chicken, salads (esp. the fatoosh), good hummus, great rice, lamb burgers, etc. Halal, so no alcohol. Cheap-ish.
Sophia Café – solid mediterranean food – the Mezza plate with shwarma is great.
Gilman Grill – I give it an honorable mention because I’ve had a couple of decent (and inexpensive) breakfasts here. Decent diner food at low prices.
Talavera – decent for “Berkeley” Mexican food, which is usually pretty blah. I particularly like their Tostada Salad (but not the taco salad).
Banh Mi Ba Le – well, this is “North of Gilman” (in El Cerrito actually) but not that far, and when you are craving a $2.50 banh mi, this is the place.
Tokyo Fish Market – Fresh excellent fish and seafood, including sashimi grade, and a prepared foods counter, with a varied lunch bento selection.
Lola’s – the best take out around. At the end of next week, I will shed more than a tear as the owners pack up their retail location. Get some baked goods there while you can. The roast chicken is very good, too.
Chinese (in general) – I’ve never had a great Chinese meal around here. Admittedly I haven’t tried all that hard, but most of it falls flat for me. There’s a new place called Tea Fragrance House if you want cheap Chinese that is fresh that fills that non-gourmet, but I really want Chinese Food” need.
Indian (in general) – I haven’t had a great Indian meal around here. I’ve had some not bad, and some pretty bad. When I want Indian-ish food, I go to a Pakistani place not far, but not North of Gilman.
This is what “immediately”comes to mind, without really thinking. The good news is you can probably walk to most if not all of these places, burning off some of what you ate.
I so agree with all of your suggestions. I live just off Solano in North Berkeley, and realize, after reading your post, that I don't fully appreciate all the wonderful go-to spots we have within walking distance. Lalime's, Sabuy Sabuy, China Village, Fonda, Vanessa's, Lola's - all great! Very sorry to hear about Lola's; I guess I'll never get those delicious macaroons again!
1300 10th St, Berkeley, CA 94710
Tokyo Fish Market
1220 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706
1715 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707
1501 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94707
1586 Hopkins St, Berkeley, CA 94707
Nizza La Bella
827 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706
Lanesplitter Delivery & To Go
1051 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706
1561 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707
1300 4th St, Berkeley, CA 94710
1247 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706
Sabuy Sabuy II
1233 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94706
1539 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707
Tangerine Food Bar
1707 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707
1329 Gilman, Berkeley, CA 94706
Zaki Kabob House
1101 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706
1290 6th St, Berkeley, CA 94710
In addition to "everything lmnopm just said", I'll add ....
Britt-Marie on the downhill end of Solano is the perfect little neighborhood place that every european city has scattered at careful intervals throughout the town, but here almost never. Somewhat heavy and artless food. One time, the pork chop was the best pork chop I have ever had. The next time, it was overdone. Win some, lose some. Excellent selection of a dozen wines by the glass. The place is full of character and characters. One of my favorite restaurants ever but definitely not for everyone.
Da Nang. One door south of Solano on the east side of San Pablo. It's a lot nicer on the inside than you might suspect from the outside. Both Thai and Vietnamese. For a while I had a saturday ritual going on where I'd walk from my house in the diagonally-opposite corner of Berkeley to here for lunch. And tended always to get the bbq pork from the viet menu. The couple of thai curries I've had have also been good. Cheap, light, fast, tasty lunch.
Corso, on Shattuck. Favorite new place of 2008. The grilled whole fish, the tagliatelle, and the amazingly simple chicken in butter are all fabulous. Good selection of wine by the glass. Not horribly expensive. It's louder than god in there so don't go on a weekend night if you were thinking of having a conversation.
1369 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706
Misto Italian Bistro
1786 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA
Da Nang Krung-Thep Restaurant
905 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706
there are already a lot of good things covered here. here are my current favorites (in no particular order):
-- great china (berkeley): peking duck and double skin (and almost nothing else)
-- pie in the sky (berkeley): son of sky and sky
-- everett & jones (berkeley): ribs
-- genova (berkeley): any italian meats sandwich with the extra fixings
-- champa garden (oakland): appetizer sampler (and almost everything else)
-- wally's (emeryville): beef shawarma
-- pyungchang (oakland) / seoul gomtang (oakland): seafood soontobu
-- gregoire (berkeley - gourmet takeout)
-- daimo (richmond - late night homey cantonese food)
-- sketch ice cream (berkeley): everything!
-- masse's (berkeley): blood orange chocolate mousse cake, mango mousse (and almost everything else)
-- sweet adeline (berkeley): tomato and ricotta galettes, bread pudding (and almost everything else)
-- crixa (berkeley): chocolate rum cake
-- cole coffee (berkeley): drip coffee
Zarri's is closer to North Berkeley than Geneva. The sandwiches aren't amazing, but they are rock bottom inexpensive.This is a nice Italian deli where prices are low and there are some nice wines. It is not a destination place, but a reasonably priced neighborhood workhorse.
Good recs. Just for anyone's info, I'm only prividing links if there is a specific rec for something at a restaurant. Go to xxx, no link from me. Go to great china (berkeley): peking duck and double skin (and almost nothing else), link. Just my own quirk.
At Crixa, the coffee cakes and pastries are always the best bets. I'm a fan of that chocolate rum cake too though people seem to like the cakes less than the pastries.
2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606
Genova Delicatessen & Ravioli
5095 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
2748 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703
1469 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709
Pie In The Sky
2124 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94704
3350 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA
Pyung Chang Tofu House
4701 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
Great China Restaurant
2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704
1244 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706
Everett and Jones Barbeque
1955 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702
3900 San Pablo Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608
I think Crixa does best the things that are "simple" (not that baking rugelah is simple) - I mean things that aren't filled with too much goo or cream, and not too complicated. Their small pastries and simple cakes, like the apple cake and the rugelah, are just perfect. My one "exception to my general rule" is the Carmella. But I really don't like the Boston Cream Pie much. I still place them in the top handful of best bakeries in the area.
I love listening in on everyone's suggestions. Keeps me coming back to this board.
But if we're talking BBQ, I have to give a shout out for KC's Bar-B-Que. Sorry, T Rex is overpriced and not very consistent and never outstanding. Everett & Jones is all about the macho heat, but the meat is low-grade and cooked to fast. KC's gets dinged for the dingy diningroom and the relatively mild sauce. But their meats are excellent and cooked to a smoky, tender perfection. I have never had a bad meal at KC's -- something I can definitely not say about the others.
2613 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702
I have yet to try it, but have you tried Chef Edward's in Oakland yet? The piggly wiggly is supposed to be good and on my to try list.
On Solano is Lao Thai Kitchen. The owner's father-in-law is from the South and has some BBQ items on the menu. It is more the boiled type of meat with the sauce being the bbq part, but I like it. They have good sides too.
Not a BBQ place, but Brown Sugar Kitchen does a great pulled pork, IMO ... but we are talking a T-Rex type of place.
I haven't been to KC's in awhile, but whatever you do, get the sauce on the side. The first time I went, my meat was just drowning in the gloop. But, I did try it again (more than once) and enjoyed it. E&J is really dismal. I find T-Rex to be at a minimum, not bad, and at its best, very good, and it gets most of my BBQ business because I can be inside the front door there within a few minutes after deciding I want to go there.
Cheeseboard is a unique Berkeley institution. They only make one type of pizza a day, but it is always good. Highly recommened.
Zachary's is another great pizza stop if you like Chicago deep-dish style. They 2 locations, one in N. Berkeley.