University Ave between Shattuck and Milvia, Berkeley
I decided this block deserves its own thread. It's kind of a dreary, old-looking stretch of University, but it seems to be a hotbed for restaurants both old and new.
Most of the places on this block seem to fit a similar profile...small, quiet, not at all flashy, cheap, and serve some kind of "exotic" ethnic cuisine (Indonesian, Salvadorean, Ghanian). Yet there are a couple newcomers, Bobby G's Pizzeria and the Meridian Sports Cafe, that seem to turn that formula upside down. It's possible this may lead to some gentrification on this block...not sure what the effects would be.
Anyone have any favorites on this block? or thoughts about its future?
Bobby G's might be the place that pulls that area up a bit. Very nice Berkeley mix of students, slackers, older couples, young families, etc. Haven't been to Meridian...looked a bit too upscale to me, was going to watch a game there but I felt I need to place a bunch of bets and wear gold chains to truly dig it (I'm kidding)...my preference for sports and food is a bit more casual. It's a nice addition to the area.
For what it's worth, the City of Berkeley has tried to re-vitalize that area with the renovated/revised medians, cross walks and some curb/parking work but it hasn't worked. I think once the UC died, a big part of the blocked died as well. The entry to the UC literally lit up the area.
To "fix" it, I'd kill a bunch of the street parking and make the sidewalks wider so you could put table out there...the city probably tried or didn't agree...or something. The northside of the block is another deal.
Whatever happens to the the UC theater building will determine a lot of that areas character. I hope it's not lofts. The potential for the area is there...
While another block away, I think the new Trader Joe's will help the area.
This block (or 2 blocks, as the MLK-to-Milvia stretch is similar) is fascinating. There are plenty of interesting places. But I've walked by and noticed on several occasions that some of them are completely empty, or have just one or two tables occupied. If you're looking for an even slightly festive evening of dining out, none of these funeral-home-esque places would fit the bill, with Bobby G's as the lone exception.
I agree that this block has a lot of potential to be more lively, more of a destination. I'd love to see that happen, whether it be because of Trader Joe's, increased popularity of Meridian, city of Berkeley intervention, or the addition of a few more newcomers.
re: Agent 510
With all due respect to the existing places, I think those couple of blocks needs one or two other ethnic "stars". Plearn and Hong Kong Villa (way back when) had that before, but that was 15 years ago or more...something like a Burma Superstar (Temescal is getting one). A place that can "nail" the student "nice-interesting-but-within-budget" angle while being a nice casual place for non-students. Bobby G's does this, but with pizza. Just thinking...Plearn and HK Villa might have started the ethnic boom.
If you go as far as MLK, there's Udupi Palace
1901 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
2020 University Ave, Berkeley, CA
2042 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
Personally I'm a big fan of Meridian, and though it's been mentioned that it looks too upscale from outside, I find that it's a very casual atmosphere inside with some very comfortable loungy chairs and booths, not to mention lots of bar seating.
Bobby G's is definitely also a favorite along with Anh Hong across the street. If they redevelop UC Theater that would be a great bonus to the area if they improved the parking situation.
Jayakarta is SOOOOO GOOD! I have been here maybe 4 or 5 times and every time it is wonderful. And I spent 4 months in the Netherlands and tried rijstafel and various other Indonesian places there, and they couldn't hold a CANDLE to Jayakarta!
I would particularly recommend the beef rendang (coconut milk braised).